ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
CHARLES GRIFFIN & CO., LIMITED, PUBLISHERS.
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IRON IN ANTIQUITY.
By J. NEWTON FRIEND, D.Sc, Ph.D., F.I.C.
Contents. — Introductory. — The Age of Metals. — Transition Periods. — Iron and the
Language. — Iron as Ornament. — As Currency. — In Europe. — Iron and the Romans. —
Do. and the Vikings. — Iron in Britain. — In India. — In Egypt. — In Palestine. — In
Mesopotamia. — In Africa. — In China and Japan. — Iron and the New World. — Finis. —
Name Index. — Subject Index.
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Compiled, Classified, and Described by M. L. SOLON.
An Analytical Index to the Works Published in all Languages on the History and
the Technology of the Ceramic Art ; also to the Catalogues of Public Museums, Private
Collections, and of Auction Sales in which the Description of Ceramic Objects occupy
an important place ; and to the most important Price Lists of the Ancient and Modem
Manufactories of Pottery and Porcelain.
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THE NON-FERROUS METALS.
By Prof. WM. GOWLAND, F.R.S., A.R.S.M.,
Emeritus Professor of Metallurgy at the Royal School of Mines, London.
Contents. — Refractory Materials. — Roasting. — Fluxes and Slags. — Copper. — Lead. —
Silver. — Gold. — Platinum. — Mercury. — Zinc. — Cadmium. — Tin. — Nickel. — Cobalt. — Anti-
mony. — Arsenic. — Bismuth. — Aluminium. — Index.
" A veritable classic of its kind — on the metallurgy of non-ferrous metals. Up to date.
. . . The work will be welcomed by metallurgists." — Mining World.
Third Edition, Thoroughly Revised. With 195 Photo -Micrographs,
Diagrams, and Figures. 10s. 6d.
THE MICROSCOPIC ANALYSIS OF METALS.
By FLORIS OSMOND and J. E. STEAD, D.Met., F.R.S.
Revised and Corrected by L. P. SIDNEY.
Contents. — Part I. Metallography considered as a Method of Assay. — Part II.
The Science of Polishing. — Part III. The Microscopic Analysis of Carbon Steels. —
Appendices. — Index.
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LONDON: CHARLES GRIFFIN & CO., LTD., 42 DRURY LANE, W.C.2.
MAJOR H. GARLAND
was, before the War, Superintendent of Laboratories
at the " Citadel," Cairo.
The first year of the war he invented, and super-
intended, the manufacture of the '' Garland "
grenade, sending 174,000 to the Dardanelles and
In October, 1916, he left Cairo for Arabia, where
he trekked in the desert disguised as an Arab,
destroying the Turkish Railway. He was awarded
the O.B.E., M.C., the Arabian order "El Nahdeh,"
and twice the '* Order of the Nile," and was
mentioned in despatches several times.
After the War he was with Lord Allenby at the
" Residency," Cairo, as Director of the Arab Bureau.
In 1921 he had to leave Egypt on account of ill
health, arriving in England on March 28th. He
died suddenly six days later, April 2nd.
Major H. GARLAND,
O.B.E., M.C., F.C.S., ]VJ. Inst. Metals,
Late Superintendent of Laboratories at the "Citadel," Cairo,
C. 0. BANNISTER, M.Eng., A.R.S.M., F.I.C,
Professor of MetallurCxY in the University of Liverpool.
Mitb ^frontispiece anO U3 ©tbec illustrations, ^ncluDin^
CHARLES GRIFFIN & COMPANY, LIMITED;
42 DRURY LANE, W.C. 2.
[All Bights Beserved.]
Printed in Great Britain
by Bell & Bain, Limited, Glasgow.
The note attached to the Frontispiece of this volume
tells the tragic story of the death of the distinguished
author six days after his return from the scene of many
years' labour. During these years in Egypt Major
Garland had excej^tional opportunities for the collection
and thorough examination of ancient metal specimens
not easily obtainable by other metallurgists. Messrs.
i],: Griffin once again have served metallurgical students
^ by encouraging the author to put together in book form
"" his extensive notes and critical memoranda which
otherwise might never have been made public. Un-
C fortunately, a chapter on Gold and Silver, intended to
"^be included, was only represented in the Manuscript
H- by notes too scrappy to be of any real value.
It was a delicate task entrusted to me by the Pub-
lishers to examine and edit the extremely interesting
and informing notes, and give them their final arrange-
ment for publishing, but it has proved both fascinating
The practical points brought out by this work are (1)
The value of microscopical examination in the study of
ancient specimens : (2) The probability of a much earlier
iron age in Egypt than that generally accej^ted : (3)
The early use of the " cire perdu " process for castings ;
and (4) the comparatively late use of cold working
associated with annealing for the shaping of vessels,
vi ^ PREFACE.
The work of ancient people on the metals known to
them h^is been always of great interest to metallurgists,
and the details of Ancient Egyptian Metallurgy given
in this book are commended with confidence to students,
whilst archaeologists will find many enriching suggestions.
C. 0. B.
Sources of Metals to the Ancient Egyptians — (a) Outline of Egyptian
History ; (6) Sources of Metals to the Ancient Egyptians, . . 1
Bronze Industry of Ancient Egypt, ...... 34
The Iron Age in Egypt, 85
Ancient Egyptian Tools, . . . . . . . .113
The Metallography of Antique Metals, 122
Notes for Collectors of Antique Metal Objects — (1) Cleaning and Pre-
servation ; (2) Repairing, . . . . . . .181
LIST OF ILLUSTEATIONS.
Frontispiece— VoRT-RAiT of Major Gaeland, . to face Title-page
1. Metal Statue of King Piupi I., with a smaller one of his Son
Cairo Museum, vith Dynasty, ....
2. Bronze Statuette of Rameses IV., .....
3. An Early Egyptian Metallurgist. Photograph from Cartonage,
4. Lead Headdresses, .......
5. Bronze Foot,
6. Section of Bronze Foot,
7. Bronze Charm Box,
8. Sun and Snake Emblem,
9. Head of Statuette,
10. Statuette of Goddess Isis,
11. Body of Isis : Arm removed.
12. Bronze Snake Crown, .
13. Unfinished Casting, showing " Gates," ....
14. Chisel Marks on Unfinished Casting, . . . .
15. Bronze Door Fastening, ......
16. Statuette of Rameses IV. Back View, ....
17. Statue of Horus, ........
18. Bronze Vase,
19. Section of Bronze Vase, ......
20. Statuette of God Thoth,
21. Section through Arm- joint, ......
22. Joint of Horus, . .
23. Mould for Ornamental Head of Pedestal,
24. Mould for Arrow Tips,
25. Fittings on Statuette of Osiris, Front View,
26. „ „ „ Back View, .
27. Arrow Tip,
28. Copper Nail, xvmth Dynasty,
29. Copper Razor, ........
30. Egyptian Vessel (Roman or Byzantine),
31. Roman Ladle, .........
32. Bronze Vase, xvmth Dynasty,
33. Wooden Sarcophagus, .
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
Bottom of Bronze Vase,
Collapsible Stand (Closed),
Repairs in Roman Pot,
Statue in Diorite, ivth Dynasty
Statue in Grey Granite, xviiith Dynasty,
Pyramid Hieroglyphics in Black Granite, xiith Dynasty,
Chisel Marks on Hard Stone Statue,
Photomicrograph of Cube of Mild Steel
Model of Carpenter's Shop, .
Native using Modem Bow Drill,
Native using Modem Adze, .
Socketted Axe Head, .
Rivet Heads on Bronze Door Hinge,
Microstructure of Cast Silver,
„ of Silver-Copper Alloy,
„ of Cast Brass,
„ of Silver-Copper Alloy showing Eutectic.
,, cf Modern Worked Brass,
„ of Twisted Brass showing Slip-bands,
Worked Brass annealed at 600° for half an hour,
Microstructure of Annealed Brass after further Annealing
for half an hour,
,, of Copper Dagger showing Cores,
Copper Dagger after Annealing, ....
Microstructure of Copper Strip, xiith Dynasty,
Copper Strip (Fig. 64) Annealed, x 90 diam.,
Microstructure of Copper Razor (Fig. 29),
(Figs. 29 and 66), Aimealed,
Copper Knife, .......
Microstructure of Copper Knife. X 75 diam..
Copper Knife (Fig. 69) after Annealing. X 75 diam.,
Microstructure of Axe-head (Fig. 48),
,, ,, near Cutting Edge,
Same as Fig. 72, after Annealing, ....
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
Microstructure showing Cores and Lead Spots in Bronze Pot
Microstructure of Gold Ring showing Core Structure,
,, of Twisted Brass. X 90 diam.,
of Gilt Copper Strip, x 100 diam.,
Rivet showing Fine Crystals. X 90 diam.,
Microstructure of Silver Bead, x 90 diam., .
„ of Silver-Copper Statuette,
of Bronze Ladle (Fig. 31). X 100 diam
,, of Ornamented Pot showing Flowlines,
Roman Bronze Jar, ......
Microstructure of Repaired Portion of Roman Pot,
„ of Joint in Repaired Pot,
,, of Bronze showing Inclusions of Unfused Scrap
View of Surface of Copper Dagger,
Section showing Internal Selective Corrosion, .
Microstructure of Copper Graver showing Corrosion,
„ of Coptic Silver showing Corrosion,
„ of Silver-rich Alloy, , .
„ of Copper Nail showing Corrosion,
„ of Axe Head showmg Corrosion,
,, of Roman Bronze Jar,
Egyptian Hinge (Bronze), . .
Microstructure of Hinge showing Impurities and Corrosion
,, of Bronze Arrow Tip,
„ of Roman Pot (Bronze), .
„ of Bronze Arrow Tip,
Egyptian Graver, ....
Microstructure of Graver,
Fragment of Copper from Corrosion Product,
Microstructure of Fragment of Copper, .
„ of Bronze Arrow Tip,
Uncleaned Statuette as found.
Uncleaned Mummy Eye,
Same as 107, after Cleanmg,
Repaired Statuette of Isis,
Broken Lion-Headed God,
Prepared Foot and Pinned Joints,
Repaired Lion-Headed God, .
SOURCES OF METALS TO THE ANCIENT
(a) Outline of Egyptian History.
To the thoughtful person of the present day it must
appear remarkable that man had inhabited the earth
for hundreds of thousands of years before he began
to use metals. j During that tremendous lapse of time
he had emerged from a state of utter barbarism, and, if
we are to believe some scientists, had developed from
an animal propelling himself on four legs into a being
of human form capable of making implements and weapons
for industrial and warlike purposes.
The primitive natives of Egypt, like those of other
prehistoric lands, in their search for improvements
upon the stone -throwing methods of hunting and warfare
of their simian coinhabitants, quickly learnt to fashion
very useful implements of flint, and before the beginning
of the historic age, the workmanship of these reached a
2 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
standard of excellence superior to that of any other
Egyptian history may be traced back some 5,000 years.
Before that, we only know that man existed and that a
certain stage of civilisation had been attained immediately
prior to the invention of the art of writing, at which point
all history begins.
The first general application of metals in Egypt does
not appear to have been very much anterior to the
invention of writing. No doubt the cutting and engraving
of stones upon which records and memoirs were to be
made, called for tools of a material less friable than
flint, with which it was only possible to make rough
scratchings upon the surface, and the ancients were
thus compelled to try other minerals that were lying
in plenty around them, being thus led forward to the
discovery of metals, which advanced the art of recording
thoughts and deeds to an extent now difficult to
It is, however, not improbable that metals had their
first application in destructive implements. In spite
of the excellence of design and workmanship that the
manufacture of flint arrow tips, knives, and other small
implements had reached, it is certain that the discovery
of metals had a profound and beneficial influence upon
the methods used in war and hunting, by rendering
possible the production of much more serviceable weapons
than those previously in use.
Much discussion has taken place amongst archaeologists
as to the actual country and time of the first use of
copper aftdr- other metals, and it is a very fascinating
subject. I There is, however, little doubt that if the
Egyptians cannot be said to have been the first to apply
copper to their needs, they were amongst the first, and
SOURCES OF METALS. 3
they are equally as deserving of credit for it as the other
ancient nations who may or may not have anticipated
their discovery, because their application was independent
and original. Further, it may be said that in their appli-
cation of the then known metals, each in its most suitable
direction, and in their skill in fashioning and working
them, the Egyptians were second to no other people of
It has been assumed by some experts that immediately
prior to the ist Dynasty, Egypt was invaded by a foreign
nation who brought into the countr}^ much refinement
in art and statesmanship, as well as a knowledge of metals
and other evidences of a matured civilisation. This
would mean, however, that in some other ancient country
there previously existed a race of people of superior
culture, who must, therefore, have been the fathers of
civilisation, but up to the present none of the lands of
the old world has produced distinct indications that its
state of progress was in advance of that of the Egyptians
3,400 years before Christ.
-^Previous to 1000 B.C., all the chief useful metals were
being worked by the Egyptians, and the only ones that
are now of extensive industrial importance, and were
then unknown, are zinc, nickel, and aluminium. Of zinc
and nickel, it may be said that, although they seem in-
dispensable to us now, we could manage without them
as did the ancient Egyptians, whilst aluminium is a
metal of quite modern discovery, which has only become
indispensable since aviation became a practical science.
It is not unlikely that, had large deposits of zinc and
nickel ores existed in the country, the Egyptian crafts-
men would have discovered and used them. They
certainly used all the metals that occurred in their own
country in sufficient quantities to be of use, and readily
4 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
took up the use of tin when it was introduced from other
countries, there being no tin-bearing minerals in Egypt
It is almost impossible to realise how much mankind
in general owes to-day to the discovery of metals. It
will only be necessary to place before the reader a picture
of a world minus machinery, which besides owing its
origin to the inventive genius of modern man, was
primarily made possible by the discovery of the useful
metals. Practically all modern improvements depend
directly or indirectly upon metals, and our present state
of progress would have been impossible without them.
Archaeologists divide the earliest history and pre-
history of a country into periods represented by the
different and progressive stages of culture that existed,
and to these the terms — Stone, Bronze, and Iron Ages
are applied. Each of these stages is further divided into
early, middle, and late periods, to which suitable names
are given. No precise dates can be assigned to the
different periods in any country, because they are merely
stages which gradually shade off into one another, as, for
instance, in the case of the Bronze Age, because stone
implements continued to be made for centuries after the
first use of copper or bronze.
It is usually considered with regard to Egypt that
the Stone Age terminated about 4000 B.C., but there
is really no hope of our ever being able to fix a date^
even roughly, for the earliest metal objects, because they
The Stone Age was followed by a period during which
copper was used. Afterwards, on the introduction of
tin, the Bronze Age proper began. These classical stages
of civilisation will be referred to later, as also will the
highly contentious subject of the commencement of the
SOURCES OF METALS. 5
Iron Age in Egypt, a stage of culture which may yet be
proved, to have even preceded the Bronze Age in this
country of paradoxes.
Attempts are sometimes made to trace a definite Hne
of demarcation between these various periods, but surely
it is a mistake to expect that an age of, say, bronze would,
under any circumstances, suddenly, or even in a century
or two, change to one of iron simply because of the
introduction of the latter. For instance, in our own time,
the invention of electric light did not at once seal the
fate of gas illumination, but the two illuminants were
afterwards employed side by side, as no doubt they will
continue to be for generations. And further, may it not
be said that even to-day we are almost as much in an
" aluminium " age as a steel one, which latter term is
sometimes used in connection with the present era.
It is, therefore, not remarkable that the dates of the
commencements and endings of the stages of culture in
prehistoric and early historic times cannot be fixed
definitely. After the Bronze Age. began, flint would be
(indeed it is known that it was) used for generations, and
similarly, after the introduction of iron, bronze continued
to be used. Even after flint disappeared from general
industrial use, it continued for ages to be employed for
fire-raising purposes, and bronze has never wholly gone
into disuetude, even temporarily ; in fact, it has remained
in use, as we shall discuss later, made up of very similar
proportions of the constituent metals as when first intro-
duced thousands of years ago.
It is proposed to give here only a very rough outline
of early Egyptian history, in order that the reader may
be in a position to follow more readily the allusions to
periods and dynasties that follow in subsequent chapters,
and for fuller details the authentic works of Professor
6 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
Flinders Petrie, Sir Gaston Maspero, and others should
The history of ancient Egypt is divided into periods or
epochs, which are further subdivided into dynasties in
a somewhat arbitrary manner following a system first
adopted some 2,300 years ago by an Egyptain historian
named Manetho, and which has been accepted by arch-
aeologists with varying amounts of credence. There is
also a predynastic period, during which the separate
states formed by the original incursionists into the Nile
Valley were gradually amalgamated into one nation
under one Pharaoh. In this remote period small articles
of copper, such as pins, and thin articles from hammered
gold were made, having been probably hammered from
native metal, whilst jars and bowls of exquisite symmetry
were produced from the hardest stones by processes of
simple grinding alone.
The 1st Dynasty dated from about B.C. 3500, and, as
the art of writing was at that time well advanced, we
know from records which have been preserved that even
the Egyptians then obtained supplies of turquoise from
the peninsula of Sinai.
It also seems perfectly clear that in the remote days
of the 1st Dynasty the Egyptians had an intimate know-
ledge of copper ores, and of the processes for extracting
the metal, which supports the view that the first use of
copper in this part of the world must have preceded the
1st Dynasty by centuries.
As has been mentioned already, in the prehistoric
period, gold had been worked, and by the time of the
1st Dynasty the goldsmith's art had reached a high
state of perfection, though present-day members of the
craft will probably not wholly agree with those archaeolo-
gists who unfavourably compare modern goldsmiths'
SOURCES OF METALS. 7
work with the old Egyptian chefs cVceuvres. Before
the close of this dynasty moulding was known and gold
and copper casting were in use.
The iiird Dynasty terminated what is sometimes
called the archaic period.
During the ivth and subsequent Dynasties mining
operations for turquoise were vigorously carried on in
Sinai. Gold was obtained from the hills along the Red
Sea and a few other places in Egypt. Stone was quarried
all over the country to produce the pyramids, statues,
and tombs. Huge blocks of granite, 50 to 60 tons in
weight, were brought down the river from the district
of the first Cataract. It was a period when art and in-
dustry flourished as they had never previously flourished
anywhere in the world. Gold and copper were used :
silver was known, but was rare, and, therefore, much
more valuable than gold.
In those early days, metals must have been entirely
monopolies of the Court. The expeditions to the mines
and quarries were sent in charge of the highest officials,
sometimes even the King's sons, and so, no doubt, the
first metallurgists in the world were either of royal blood
or occupied posts of great importance under the crown.
During the Memphite period, tin was possibly first
introduced from abroad. With the exception of a small
pin of bronze stated to date back to the iiird Dynasty,
and which is usually regarded as an accidental production
of copper-tin alloy, the earliest article supposed to be
of bronze that has been found, is a life-size statue (Fig. 1)
of a King named Piupi I., of the vith Dynasty (see also
Chap. II., p. 36. It is now in the Cairo Museum, and,
although the Museum catalogue asserts that this statue
is of bronze and gives an analysis, doubt exists in some
quarters as to whether it is really of that alloy, and a
8 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
Fig. 1.— Metal Statue of Tving Piupi I., with a smaller one of his son,
Cairo Museum, vith Djmasty,
SOURCES OF METALS. ^ 9
future analysis may show that it is only copper, in which
case the introduction of tin into Egypt will stand in
need of being dated forward some centuries, because
there is no other authentic bronze specimen in existence
of a period anterior to the xviiith Dynasty.
At the same time, it should be pointed out that the
statue, having been either partly, or, as the author
believes, wholly produced by casting, the metal may
quite probably be of bronze, as some difficulty would
have been experienced in casting an object of this nature
in even only comparatively pure copper.
Existing specimens make it fairly certain that during
the ivth Dynasty, or even before, iron was employed in
Egypt for industrial purposes, but a discussion of this
fascinating subject is reserved for a subsequent chapter.
The Memphic Period was followed by the first Theban
(from Thebes, the new capital) Period or Empire, which
included the xith to the xviith Dynasties, and termi-
nated about B.C. 1600.
The xiith Dynasty stands out as a very prosperous
one, and during its course the Egyptians made an in-
vasion of Syria, another wealthy land of old times, which
was subsequently to become an important source of
metals of all kinds to the victorious Egyptians.
From the ancient records we learn that in the xiith
Dynasty the mines in Sinai were administered in a
methodical manner. Each mine was placed under a
foreman and a regular output of ore expected from it.
Values were at this time reckoned in terms of weight
in copper, and again the archaeologists tell us that the
jewellery of the period comprised regal ornaments, the
workmanship of which has not been surpassed by later-
In the British Museum is a memorial tablet or stela
10 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
of a mining inspector of the xiith Dynasty. On it he
states that he worked the mining districts and made
the chiefs wash out the gold.
The XV. and xvith Dynasties were foreign ones, the
Egyptians' first experience of ahen rule. The invaders
came from Asia, and are known by the name of Hyksos.
They only ruled for about a century, but during that
time became thoroughly Egyptianised, assumed Pharaonic
titles, and appropriated the statues of kings who had
reigned before them. Their rule had little effect on the
art of the period, and none on the Egyptian industries
and crafts ; in fact, in all likelihood, they were ruling
a people far in advance of themselves in these matters.
The first Theban period ended in great confusion with
the xviith Dynasty. The Egyptians overpowered their
rulers, chased them out of the country, and an Egyptian
Pharaoh was once again set upon the throne.
The xviiith Dynasty ushered in a new epoch, the second
Theban, or, as it is sometimes called, the Empire Period :
a period of majesty and might for the country, during
which Asia was subdued, and Nubia, the country of
gold, was forced to pay an annual tribute of from 600 to
800 pounds weight of the precious metal from the mines
there, which afterwards became a continual source of
income to the Egyptians.
That the mines and quarries were kept in the hands
of the reigning monarch is shown by the Pharaohs' great
interest in their development. Ahmose 1st, the first
king of the xviiith Dynasty, made visits of inspection
to them. This dynasty witnessed the rise of a great
queen, named Hatsheput, who reigned as co-regent with
King Thutmose Illrd. This royal lady is noteworthy
because she erected two immense obelisks at Karnak,
each weighing over 350 tons, and overlaid with gold.
SOURCES OF METALS. ii
The appearance of the untarnishable covering of these
monuments, shinmg in the splendour of the Egyptian
sun, must have been entrancing, and the value pro-
Thutmose Ilird was an able administrator, an empire
builder, and a military strategist of no mean order.
He increased the treasury of the kingdom by immense
quantities of gold and silver, which he captured in Syria,
and we read in the ancient records that during his reign
a weighing of about four tons of gold took place. He
occupied his spare time in designing vessels needed for
the temple. His son, Amenhotep Ilnd succeeded him,
and ably administered the Empire, increasing enormously
the wealth of the treasury by his conquests. After one
of his expeditions he brought back three-quarters of
a ton of gold and about 45 tons of copper. During this
reign there was considerable intercourse with the eastern
Mediterranean countries, and Egyptian influences worked
upon the art of other nations. Silver became more
plentiful than hitherto, and cheaper than gold.
Another Pharaoh, Amenhotep III., maintained the
empire for nearly 40 years, but after that the xviiith
Dynasty drew to its close in disorder and religious revolu-
tion : the Syrian dependency was lost, and priestcraft
assumed a controlling influence in the government.
The xixth Dynasty, B.C. 1350 to B.C. 1205, includes
the first two kings known by the name of Rameses, a
name which is now renowned almost all over the civilised
world. It is the conceit and purloining proclivities of
the second Rameses, however, that have brought the
name into such prominence. His conceit took the form
of erecting collossal statues of himself all over the country,
whilst his piracy, in adopting numerous statues of his
kingly predecessors, erasing their inscriptions and
12 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
substituting his own name and achievements. In spite of
these weaknesses, he was a mighty builder, and, as an
instance of this, one of his statues may be quoted, which
is made of a single block of stone weighing about a
thousand tons. The student will find it interesting to
picture the ancient Egyptian workmen preparing the
stone, moving the statue, and erecting it, without the
use of machinery of any kind, and, according to archaeolo-
gists, without any other small tools than those of copper
Amongst the other achievements of Rameses II., it
may be mentioned that he had 51 daughters and about
twice that number of sons. His mummy is in the Cairo
Museum, and visitors may gaze upon the face of the
old king much the same as it must have been as he lay
upon his death bier, thousands of years ago.
Unfortunately, the successors of Rameses II. of the
same name, who formed the xxth Dynasty, were not so
enterprising, and little is known about them, except
that under their rule the Empire fell away and the power
of the Pharaohs became thoroughly subordinate to that
of the priests. A photograph, taken from a beautifully
executed bronze statuette of Rameses IV., will be found
in Fig. 2.
The later Rameses, in their desire only for ease and
luxury, allowed the priesthood to became powerful and
wealthy, and so the following dynasty, the xxist, was
one of priests, known as the Priests of Amon, who suc-
ceeded in getting the whole of Egypt under their control
for a time. Towards the end of the dynasty, however,
the country split up into two kingdoms, the priests
maintaining authority in Upper Egypt, whilst descend-
ants of the direct royal line rose up in the Delta, and
set up a king of their own at Tanis.
SOURCES OF METALS.
From this unsettled period we have rehcs of interest
to the metallurgist. It is not surprising to find that
the priests, who seemed to believe that temporal as well
as spiritual rule could be worked from one department,
did not shrink from commercial undertakings. The
-Bron7e Statuette of Rameses TV
control of all the metal was placed in the hands of high
officials of the priestly house, and thus w^e find that one,
who was the chief of the metallurgists, also bore the
grandiose title of " Superior of the Secrets."' A picture
ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY
of this interesting person is given in Fig. 3. It is a photo-
graph of the cartonage placed over the mummy, and is
supposed to be a hfe-Hke representation of the deceased.
Metallurgists visiting the museum at Cairo may thus
Fig. 3. — An Early Egyptian Metallurgist. Photograph irom Cartonage.
look upon the features of one of the earliest of their
predecessors in the science, and will no doubt wonder
whether the expert was really as youthful as he is repre-
SOURCES OF METALS. 15
It is owing to the liberal policy of the Egyptian Anti-
quities Department in allowing photographs to be freely
taken in the Museum, that it is possible to include this
and other interesting reproductions of antiques kept
After Egypt had been more or less divided for about
a century and a half, a Lybian succeeded in obtaining
the throne, and in bringing the whole of the country
under one crown, but the high priests of Anion still
maintained their power in certain localities.
During their domination, the Lybians became Egypt-
ianised, as the other alien rulers did before them. How-
ever, they were overthrown in turn by Nubian invaders,
who founded the xxvth Dynasty (b.c. 712 to B.C. 663).
Like their predecessors, the Nubians, or Ethiopians,
had no arts or industries, and, therefore, did not in-
fluence the crafts of the Egyptians, at least not bene-
At the end of the xxvth Dynasty the Egyptians had
experience of alien rule from another source, though for
a comparatively short time. The Assyrians, who in
former years had been subjects of the Egyptian Empire,
invaded the country, drove out the Nubians, and took
the kingship into their own hands.
The leading historians do not state that the Syrians
brought in any improvements upon the metal and
kindred industries, and indeed their domination seems
to have been of a purely destructive nature, although
it was such a short one. They are said, however, to have
left behind a set of iron tools, comprising chisels, saws,
rasps, etc., of Syrian manufacture, which are still in
The dynasty that followed, the xxvith, extending
from B.C. 663 to B.C. 525, forms a bright break in an
1 6 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
otherwise gloomy period of ancient Egyptian history.
With the aid of Greek mercenaries, the natives were
once again able to overpower their foreign rulers and
set a Pharaoh of their own upon the throne. This
period of restoration, known from the name of the
capital, Sais, as the Saitic Period, is probably the most
interesting and important from a purely metallurgical
point of view, because it is the only epoch that yields
any considerable quantities of metal objects of Egyptian,
as well as Greek work and style. Probably 90 per cent,
of metal antiquities recovered from excavations belong
to this period. In it a great revival of art and learning
took place, and Greek influence upon the arts and crafts
began to be felt. At least one city of Greeks was founded
in Egypt during this dynasty.
But Egypt was far too valuable a land to be un-
attracted by the heads of rival states, and the Persians,
after their victorious march across Asia, entered the
country and subdued it, afterwards ruling it with some
severity for about 110 years, forming the xxviith Dynasty,
which lasted from B.C. 525 to B.C. 408.
The Persians were themselves skilled in metal working,
and had an art distinctively their own. A few specimens
of their bronze work have been found in Egypt from time
to time, but, of course, there is nothing to indicate
whether these were made in the country by Persian
workmen or were merely introduced in their manu-
A system of coinage was initiated in Egypt by the
Persians, and in other ways they assisted the prosperity
of the country, but the Egyptians, ever ungrateful,
threw off the Persian yoke and the Kings of the xxviiith,
xxixth, and xxxth Dynasties were natives who held their
authority by the help of Greek mercenaries. After some
SOURCES OF METALS. 17
years, however, the Persians reconquered the country,
but only for a short time, and they were finally over-
thrown about B.C. 332 by Macedonian invaders, who
were assisted by the Egyptians themselves.
The history of the ancient Egyptians really terminates
at this point, because, after the Macedonian conquest,
they were never again free, but so many metal anti-
quities have been found belonging to -the Ptolemaic
and Roman Periods which followed, that some note
should be made in a book of this nature of the influence
on the metal-working craft of these changes of domina-
At the death of the Macedonian ruler, Alexander,
in B.C. 305, the Ptolemaic period began, and during its
course Egypt became the .richest country in the world.
Though their rulers were Greeks, the Egyptians were
permitted to retain their own nationality, language, and
religion. Like previous invaders of the country, the
Ptolemies became Egyptianised to a great extent, and
adopted the habits of former Pharaohs.
It is to the benefactions of one of the Ptolomies to
the temples of Egypt, that we owe the Rosetta Stone,
which has proved to be the key of ancient Egyptian
hieroglyphic writing, because it was inscribed in three
styles of writing, including hieroglyphic and Greek.
No outline of this dynasty would be complete without
mention of that remarkable woman. Queen Cleopatra,
who was the last of the Ptolomies, and whose character
stands embossed in history as a fascinating and powerful
The metal antiquities of the Ptolomaic Period, though
numerous, are not as plentiful as those of the Saitic
Period which preceded it. Although the Egyptians had
long been expert in metal working, it is not unlikely
1 8 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
that they learnt several new processes from the Greeks,
such as the raismg of vessels of intricate shape from
discs of silver, copper, and gold, which became easy to
them as soon as they had learnt to apply systematic
On the death of Cleopatra, in B.C. 30, Egypt became
a Roman province, and it is from that date that foreign
influences began to affect Egyptian arts, crafts, and
customs in such a pronounced manner that the latter
were speedily extinguished, although many of the
Roman Emperors could not withstand the fascinations
of the Egyptian ritual, for we find that even they adopted
the Pharaonic titles and customs, and caused much re-
building and repairing to be done to the national temples.
By the time of the Roman Conquest, Egyptian civil-
isation had once more fallen from its greatness, and
consequently the mechanical genius of the Romans
found a ready field for its application.
The Graeco-Roman Period possesses added interest
for the metallurgist, because of the general use of a
coinage, and, therefore, furnishes plenty of metal speci-
mens in bronze, silver, gold, and even lead, for the
purposes of scientific investigation. The Romans had
a mint at Alexandria.
The first use of zinc as an intentional addition to copper
dates from Roman times.
During the Roman occupation, the Greek language
entirely supplanted Egyptian for official purposes.
Christianity was introduced, and, in spite of the perse-
cution of certain of the Roman governors, seems to have
flourished as it has never since flourished in Egypt.
The Christians or Copts, as they are still called, broke
away from the traditions and conventions of pagan
art. As a result of the vigorous persecutions to which
SOURCES OF METALS. 19
they were subjected by some of the Romans and by all
the Arab rulers subsequently, and of their relegation
to seclusion in isolated districts and settlements, it is
not surprising that, although their forms of architecture,
design, and decoration were not without beauty and
distinction, following as they did the Byzantine styles,
their craftsmanship in stone, wood, and in metal w^as,
on the whole, of an inferior order.
The tenets of their faith may have precluded the
employment of skilled pagan artisans in the embellish-
ment of their religious establishments, but it seems more
probable that the sculptors, the artists, the metal w^orkers,
and other pagan craftsmen were prevented by their own
aversion to the new religion, from executing commissions
for its followers, because the Copts had no objections
to incorporating in their monasteries the hieroglyph-
covered stones of former Egyptian temples, or to adopting
the foundations of the latter for their own edifices.
The specimens of Coptic metal work that are left to
us are generally of poor workmanship, and are not
Outside the monasteries and settlements, Grseco-
Roman art supplanted that of the Egyptians. The
public buildings and monuments were characterised
by beauty of design and finish, but private property
appears to have been made much more economically.
Much of the metal-work of Graeco-Roman types found
in Egypt was very probably fashioned abroad, although
it must be said that few of the articles will bear com-
parison with those of the same style found in Europe.
The many little bronze figures of the Egyptian gods,
which the Greeks conveniently recognised as their own
divinities, were no doubt made locally.
In the year a.d. 640, the Romans were turned out of
ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
Egypt by the Arab hordes, who conquered the country
and made it a province of their Empire, which it remained
until 1517, a period of 877 years. This book is not con-
cerned with early Arab metal work, but it may be stated
that specimens of it are not as numerous as might have
been expected. The Arab Museum at Cairo, although
it contains some ver}^ interesting relics in brass and
silver, possesses only a meagre collection, which is sur-
prising, seeing that it deals with a comparatively recent
historical period. The older mosques of Egypt, however,
contain isolated relics of merit.
There are two features of ancient Egyptian history
that stand out prominently. The first is the number
of changes of capital that took place. From the beginning
of the historic period, down to B.C. 332, when the country
came under Macedonian rule, no less than nine cities
had occupied the position of metropolis, and some of
them more than once. The second feature is the per-
sistence of native art, industries, and religion. Not one
of the foreign invasions until that of the Greeks, which
was really not an invasion, can be traced to have had
any serious or lasting influence upon the art of the
country, but instead we find, as we have observed pre-
viously, that, owing, no doubt, to the advanced civilisa-
tion of the Egyptians, the foreign rulers became Egypt-
ianised and adopted the manners and customs of their
new subjects. Even the advanced but clumsy art of the
Assyrians, with whom the Egyptians had the closest
relations for centuries, as subjects and masters, and also
as traders, did not have any permanent effect upon
Egyptian style, or upon the processes of industry. On
the other hand, Egyptian influences considerably affected
the civilisations of the different foreign states that came
into contact with them. It is certain that the Egyptians
SOURCES OF METALS. 21
had nothing to learn from any of their neighbours in
the manipulation and use of metals, right up to the Graeco-
Roman period, and that, in spite of constant intercourse
with Crete, Syria, and other metal-producing countries,
Egypt developed its bronze industry, and its gold, silver,
and other ornamental work, on quite independent lines.
The preceding outline of Egyptian history is neces-
sarily a very brief one. The reader will have observed
that it covers a period of some five thousand years,
but he should take note that early Egyptian chronology
is by no means a settled matter. Archaeology is a science
based almost wholly upon inferences and indications.
There is very little documentary or direct evidence of
any kind concerning some periods of considerable extent,
whilst in many cases the doubtful testimony of classic
literature has to be accepted as the only source of in-
In fixing dates for the earliest events, there are several
systems of chronology in use, each of which receives its
measure of support from Egyptologists equally eminent.
There are, however, disparities of thousands of years
between the dates assigned by them to the commence-
ment of the dynastic period, and we can only expect
very rough approximations in the dating of matters
and events so indefinite. For instance, we may compare
the system supported by the late Sir Gaston Maspero
and others, which places the ist Dynasty at about B.C.
5000, with that advocated by D. Breasted in his incom-
parable History of Ancient Egypt, a work which, either
in its extended or abridged form, the student would do
well to consult. In it he used what is termed the short
system, which places the ist Dynasty about B.C. 3400.
Just as there are different systems of dating, so are
there various systems of spelling and writing the names
22 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
of Kings, and the casual reader will probably find a
little difficulty in tracing the same persons and places
in the histories and account of different modern writers.
Some archaeologists show an unfortunate taste for a
method of writing the name, which appears to the
layman to render them cumbrous and unpronounceable.
The science of archaeology is a very comprehensive
one : indeed it may almost be said to embrace all the
other sciences as well as the arts. And this is probably
why we occasionally find in works on the subject, that
we are asked by writers in their enthusiasm and admira-
tion for the prowess of the ancient Egyptian artificers, to
believe that they achieved the impossible.
This tendency to over-rate and flatter has been ex-
tended to metallurgical matters. It fostered the idea
that the ancient Egyptians possessed secret hardening
processes for copper and bronze, and it has considerably
hindered the acceptance of any theories as to the know-
ledge and use of iron by the early dynastic Egyptians.
With regard to dating, a word of explanation is neces-
sary. The reader who finds two different authorities
assigning one and the same event to dates 1,500 years
or more apart is apt to become completely sceptical
in the matter. Yet the explanation is a simple one.
Some years ago an ingenious method of fixing the date
of certain events in ancient Egypt was discovered, based
on the facts that the Egyptian civil calendar contained
only 365 days instead of approximately 365J, and that
in consequence the seasons were always becoming gradu-
ally displaced by J day each year, or one day in :^ur
years, and so coming round to their correct positions
in the calendar every 1460 years (365 x 4). If in a given
year of a given king we are told that a certain date of
the civil year corresponded with a certain date of the
SOURCES OF METALS, 23
true or solar year, we can by a simple piece of arithmetic
fix that year to its position in a " Sothic Cycle " of
1,460 years, but we can never be sure, from mathe-
matical considerations alone, which Sothic Cycle, for
such cycles began in 4241 B.C., 2781 B.C., and 1321 B.C.
With regard to the xviiith Egyptian Dynasty, from
which we have three of these so-called " Sothic Datings,"
there is complete agreement between Egyptologists that
it is to the last of these cycles that the events must be
assigned, and working on this basis we get for the beginning
of that dynasty the date of 1580 B.C. With respect to
the xiith Dynasty the position is slightly different.
Here we have one Sothic Dating, which would place the
beginning of the dynasty in 2000 B.C. or 3460 B.C. (1,460
years earlier), according as we place it in the second or
first of the cycles enumerated above. It may be said
at once that the large majority of Egyptologists agree
in accepting the lower date, 2000 B.C. The higher date,
3460 B.C., has now only one advocate of any distinction,
though a few scholars are inclined to deny the validity
of the Sothic method of dating, and to adopt arbitrary
dates in between the higher and the lower. Before the
xiith Dynasty all is guesswork, but here again there is
a fairly general agreement that the ist Dynasty should
be dated very roughly about 3400 B.C. Certain Egypt-
ologists would place the date much further back than
this, but there are no advocates for a much lower
The dates from the xviiith Dynasty to the xxxth
may be regarded as approximately certain, being based
on the known lengths of the kings' reigns and checked,
in the later period, by external parallels.
The following table gives a survey of the chronology
adopted by the advocates of the Lower Dating : —
24 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
Archaic Period, ist to iiird Dynasty,
Old Kingdom, ivth to vith Dynasty,
First Intermediate Period, viith to xith
Middle Kingdom, x:
Period, xiiith to
3400 to 2900 B.C.
2900 to 2475 B.C.
2475 to 2000 b.c.
2000 to 1788 B.C.
1788 to 1580 B.C.
1580 to 1350 B.C.
1350 to 1205 B.C.
1205 to 1090 B.C.
1090 to 945 B.C.
945 to 745 B.C.
745 to 718 B.C.
718 to 712 B.C.
712 to 663 B.C.
663 to 525 B.C.
525 to 408 B.C.
408 to 399 B.C.
399 to 378 B.C.
378 to 340 B.C.
332 to 30 B.C.
30 B.C. to A.D. 640
A.D. 640 to 1517
(6) Sources of Metals to the Ancient Egyptians,
The mines from wliich the ancient Egyptians obtained
supphes of the different metals they used, with the
exception of silver and tin, were situated chiefly in
parts of Egypt between the Nile and the Red Sea. In
these areas were found gold, copper, lead, and iron, as
well as various precious stones, for which extensive
mining operations were also carried on.
Over 100 ancient gold workings have been traced in
Egypt and the Sudan — but none in Sinai. It is not im-
possible that supplies were obtained at times from the
land of Midian, on the eastern shore of the Red Sea,
SOURCES OF METALS. 25
where old workings are known to exist, but these have
not yet been properly examined.
There is in existence a plan of a gold mine dating
from the xixth Dynasty, and this ancient and
valuable document, being the earliest map of any kind
that we possess, shows, in a somewhat sketchy manner,
the mountains from which the gold was obtained, the
site where the washing was done, and the store house,
together with the roads connecting these places, but
the actual position of the mine has not been determined,
as the data given on the map are insufficient.
From other contemporary records, it has been found
that the metallic gold was obtained by crushing the
quartz, grinding and washing on inclined planes, much
in the same way as vanning is done to-day. The grains
of gold were afterwards melted and run into ingots.
The gold contained a fair proportion of silver, as such
native gold usually does, but it is improbable that the
earliest Egyptian metallurgists knew this, or, if they
did, that they were aware of any processes for separating
it, in fact analyses made by Berthelot show that the
gold from early mummies and other antiquities contains
about 13 per cent, silver.
It is likely that some of the first gold articles were
made by simply hammering native nuggets, or by
welding several nuggets together, but this must have been
confined to small articles.
The large quantities of gold objects brought back by
the Egyptians after raids and conquests in Asia and
elsewhere must also not be forgotten when considering
their sources of supply. These spoils of war appear to
have been received in various forms, such as ingots, rings,
sheets, and even finished vessels of different types, the
latter being probably afterwards melted up for other uses.
26 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
With regard to the sources of silver, we have not so
much evidence. It is well known that in the earliest
periods, silver was much more valuable than gold, and
that electrum, an alloy of gold and silver of indefinite
proportions, was always much prized throughout the
days of antiquity. Silver must, therefore, have been at
first a rare metal. The late Professor Gowland con-
sidered that the first silver in Egypt was obtained by
refining the gold from Nubia, but there is no record as
to the period in which the Egyptians first learnt to purify
their gold, or to separate the silver, though it is fairly
certain that later in history they did separate it as chloride
by the action of common salt.
It seems more probable that silver was first obtained
from Syria, than that it was separated from impure gold,
as the latter would imply that the presence of the silver
in the gold was known at the time, and that the Egyptian
metal workers were possessed of some chemical know-
ledge, of which there is no evidence. Their medical
prescriptions show a lamentable state of ignorance in
Before rejecting the above theory on the score that
silver was not even in use in Syria at the earliest period
to which silver objects found in Egypt have been attri-
buted, the systems of chronology of these two parts
of the ancient world must be thoroughly verified and
With respect to copper, we are on surer ground, for
there are still in existence traces of old workings, such as
heaps of slag, broken crucibles, besides definite written
accounts of the mines and their organisation. With
some breaks during revolutionary periods, when any
metal required by the authorities would probably be
taken from the statues and other works of their pre-
SOURCES OF METALS. 27
decessors, the mines were worked during the whole
The cupriferous ores of Egypt were of a readily reduc-
ible nature, being, so far as we can tell to-day, chiefly
blue and green carbonates and silicate, whilst ferru-
ginous and siliceous sands for use as fluxes during the
smelting of the ores were abundant.
As in the case of gold and silver, spoils of war and
tribute from different parts of the empire, were responsible
for imports of large quantities of copper. Considerable
amounts were also, no doubt, received in the ordinary
course of trade with neighbouring people, such as the
Phoenicians, at least from the time of the vith Dynasty.
It is generally agreed amongst experts that the first
production of metallic copper, wherever it took place in
the ancient world, was an accidental one, and that it
occurred round the camp fires where pieces of ore were
used as stones to enclose the fire, and were thus reduced
by the fuel and the heat. The first knowledge of other
metals may also have been brought about similarly.
The lump of metal produced fortuitously in this way
would quickly attract attention by its properties of
toughness, malleability, and lustre. Iron, copper, tin,
lead, and silver might have been produced in this
manner, but after the first discovery, which appears to
have been that of copper, other surface minerals must
almost certainly have been methodically experimented
Copper and gold were the first metals to be used in
Egypt as in most other ancient countries, but they were
obtained by two different methods, so that the discovery
of one could hardly have led directly to that of the other,
and seeing that at least with respect to Egypt, native
gold is far more likely to have existed in the form of
28 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
nuggets of useful size, thus needing no smelting for small
articles, the employment of gold no doubt preceded that
of copper, although copper pins are claimed to have been
found in graves of earlier prehistoric dates than specimens
There is no doubt that in those early times, surface
ores of different metals were plentiful, although to-day
Egypt cannot be regarded as a country rich in minerals.
Its gold deposits are almost exhausted, which is not
surprising, seeing that they have been worked for about
6,000 years. Sinai Peninsula remains the only district
likely to prove wealthy in minerals : there are consider-
able deposits of manganese, copper, and iron ores, besides
precious stones, such as turquoise, and probably only
railway facilities are needed to make them worth the
The next important metal to consider is tin. The
source of this metal to the Egyptians is still wrapt in
obscurity, and much has been written by archaeologists
and others on this subject. It is certain that it was
imported either in the form of ore or metal, and the various
places that have been suggested are Central Europe,
Persia, Spain, Britain, Cyprus, and even China. No
useful purpose would be served by recapitulating or
comparatively discussing these suggestions here, but the
reader may take his choice and rest content that it is
just as likely to be correct as any of the others.
The probable date of the first use of tin for making
bronze is another interesting and much discussed question.
As we have mentioned previously, one or two articles of
bronze have been discovered belonging to very early
dates, such as, for instance, a small rod assigned to the
iiird Dynasty, but these were either accidental pro-
ductions, or are perhaps intrusive and belong to later
SOURCES OF METALS. 29
periods than the accompanying objects with which they
were found. At the same time, it is not wise to regard
the absence of specimens of any specific class of article
during any period of antiquity as conclusive evidence
of its non-production by the people of the period in
Mention has been made of the metal statue (Fig. 1,
p. 8) of the vith Dynasty King, Piupi 1st, and if this is
really made of bronze, it is unlikely to have been an
accidental production of that alloy, on account of its
size, and, therefore, the first use of tin may date back
before that period. On the other hand, it is not until
the xviiith Dynasty that undoubted bronze objects have
been found in sufficient quantities to really justify an
assertion that tin was in common use as an addition to
A finger ring of tin, attributed to the xviiith Dynasty,
is described by Professor Flinders Petrie. It is unique,
and, in spite of its extended life -time, the metal still
possesses its " cry."
Nothing is recorded to indicate whether its hardening
properties, or the colour modifications it introduced,
influenced the first use of tin with copper. It should not
be overlooked, however, that no doubt the first con-
signments of tin received in the country were sporadic,
and consequently the metal would for some time be
procurable only in certain localities or establishments.
The ancient Egyptians obtained remarkable results in
all kinds of stone working long before they received
The late Professor Gowland went to considerable
trouble to show that the first use of bronze in antiquity
was probably not an intentional alloying of the two
metals, but rather a simultaneous reduction of the two
30 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
ores, and he has proved his contention that a sound
alloy can be made in this manner. With respect to Egypt,
however, it is hardly necessary to prove this, as we know
that the copper ore from Sinai was reduced on the spot
and brought to Egypt as metal, and that metallic copper
was received in tons from other sources.
Antique articles of lead discovered in Egypt are very
few, but even prehistoric specimens have been found.
The metal appears to have been fairly common in the
xviiith Dynasty, and it was used occasionally for casting
figures of the gods. There is a record that in the xviiith
Dynasty Cyprus paid tribute in copper and lead, whilst
bronze weights were brought up to the standard with
lead fillings about that period.
In Saitic times lead appears as an intentional con-
stituent of bronze used for statuettes and similar articles
of a purely non-useful nature. The ancient Egyptians
appear to have realised that an addition of this metal
made the alloy more fusible and more fluid, thus ensuring
much sounder castings, especially in pieces of a thin
nature. They must also have found that engraving and
tooling of all kinds on the leady alloy was much simplified.
Whether lead was put in for these reasons, or for economy
or fraud, at least up to the Roman times, it is impossible
to say, because it is not known whether it was a cheaper
metal than copper or tin : it must, however, have been
Fig. 4 shows some of the best examples of early Egyptian
lead work in existence. The photograph illustrates
examples of removable head decorations of various
kinds, made for placing on statuettes at will, and date
from Ptolemaic times. Some parts of these head decora-
tions were cast direct to the finished form, whilst other
parts were beaten to shape. As the photograph had to
SOURCES OF METALS.
be taken of the glass case complete, in which they are
kept at the Cairo Museum, the illustration is somewhat
marred by 'reflections and shadows.
Lead coffins also were used in the times of the Ptole-
Fjo;. 4. — Lead Headdresses.
The sources of lead were probably mainly local. There
is a hill near the eastern coast of Egypt, known to-day
as Gebel Rusas, which is Arabic for Lead Mountain,
where ancient lead workings still exist, and the deposits
of galena and cerussite are being exploited at the present
32 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
time. Old lead workings also exist at the Jasus Valley
near the Red Sea.
The only other metal known to the early Egyptians
was antimony, but it is improbable that they regarded
it as a metal. A preparation of it was used for colouring
the face round the eyes from the earliest times, and it is
said that beads of it dating from about B.C. 800 have
been unearthed, but it has never been found in any shape
or form in which its metallic attributes were required.
Brass was unknown until Roman times. The articles
of this alloy found in Egypt belonging to that period
may probably have been introduced in the manufactured
state. There are apparently no zinc ore deposits of econ-
omic value in the country, although calamine occurs at
Gebel Rusas in combination with galena and cerussite.
In view of the considerable quantities of manganese
ores that exist in Sinai, and also seeing that they were
used in the early days in the preparation of glazes, etc.,
no doubt the Egyptian metallurgists attempted the
difficult task of reducing them so as to get the metal.
No analyses of Egyptian bronze or copper that have
been published show manganese as an ingredient or
Notwithstanding their different degrees of permanence,
we possess to-day specimens of all the metals and alloys
known to the ancient Egyptians. The metallurgist, in
handling these relics, is seized with a desire to open them
up, to pry into their internal constitution and composi-
tion, and to get what information he may from a means
of investigation which, whilst educative, is unfortunately
destructive : the archaeologist, on the other hand, touches
each fragment almost with reverence ; his thoughts go
back to some beautiful queen, with whom he has acquired
a thorough post-mortem acquaintance, and visualises
SOURCES OF METALS. 33
her placing the ornament round her royal neck ; or to
some pagan temple, every niche of which he knows, and
pictures its ponderous wooden doors swinging on the
massive hinges of bronze which now lie before him.
However, most of the antiquities, metallic or other-
wise, that have been preserved to us by the sandy soil
of Egypt, were connected, either directly or indirectly,
with the burial of the dead, and it is chiefly because the
ancients were so thoughtful of their lives beyond the
grave that we are enabled to learn something of the
beginnings of the first industries and arts.
BRONZE INDUSTRY OF ANCIENT EGYPT.
At the beginning of the dynastic period, copper founding
and manipulation were well understood. The articles
made were small and chiefly of a useful, rather than an
ornamental, nature. Thus chisels, knives, daggers, and
similar implements figure amongst finds belonging to the
Some writers have stated that open moulds must have
been employed for making these early tools, as copper
cannot be satisfactorily cast in closed moulds. It is
very improbable, however, that the copper of these
primitive days was sufficiently pure to possess this
characteristic, because specimens analysed have in-
variably contained arsenic, and appreciable amounts of
other impurities, such as iron, nickel, cuprous oxide, etc.
The following is a typical analysis, being that of a copper
dagger of this dynasty : —
0-39 per cent.
ther authentic specir
f the 1st Dynasty
BRONZE INDUSTRY OF ANCIENT EGYPT, 35
amined by the author was a copper chisel, the metal of
which contained much cuprous oxide, not due to cor-
rosion, but introduced during melting.
From the microscopical examination of these articles
and others, their mode of manufacture is quite clear, and
the process appears to have continued in vogue for the
making of copper and bronze tools and weapons of a
plain nature, for many centuries.
The article was first cast approximately to its finished
shape, the cutting edges being hammered out afterwards
when the metal was cold. This confirms the opinion of
Professor Gowland and others that the hardness of the
cutting edges of antique copper and bronze implements
was due solely to hammering. Some grinding may have
been done to the edges, but, as this would remove the
hard skins which had been intentionally produced by
hammering, it is likely to have been applied to wood-
working tools only.
The writer believes that during the iind Dynasty
(B.C. 3000) cored copper castings were being made, but
the only specimen that has passed through his hands is
a copper spout broken off an abriq, or water vessel,
authoritatively assigned by the Egyptian Antiquities
Department to that Dynasty. This article had un-
doubtedly been cast on a core, and almost certainly by
the wax process which subsequently came to be used
so extensively in this country.
A bronze object belonging to the iiird Dynasty,
which was found at Medum, is alluded to by different
authors as a rod and a ring. It is generally regarded as
a purely fortuitous production of bronze, chiefly because,
if the Piupi statue previously alluded to eventually turns
out to be copper, no other bronze object prior to the
xviiith Dynasty has been discovered. There are, of
6 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
course, appreciable numbers of copper articles, such as
tools, etc., belonging to intervening periods.
The next dynasty of which important specimens of
metal work have survived is the sixth. The life size
statue of Piupi in the Cairo Museum belongs to this
dynasty ; and with it there is also one of his son.
As the authorities decided not to clean the statue,
the surface remains crusted with a thick coating of oxy-
chloride and carbonate of copper, but its inlaid eyes of
black and white inlay of enamel still give it a very
striking appearance. From the photograph which appears
in Fig. 1, on p. 8, the reader will be able to form some
idea of the attractive appearance it must have possessed
when in its original metallic state, probably bearing some
delicate and pleasing patina. Unfortunately, the work
was not discovered intact, and a kilt supposed to have
been made of electrum is missing. Several writers have
said that the head and extremities were cast, and that
the body and limbs were hammered to shape, the different
parts being subsequently joined up by welding. This is
quite improbable. The question of alleged welding of
copper and its alloys by the ancient Egyptians will be
discussed later, but, from his experience of other early
metal work and a general study of the whole subject,
the author considers it much more likely that all the
various parts were cast and rivetted together ; in fact,
rivet holes can be seen in places. But this opinion is
necessarily given with some reserve, as the specimen is
kept in a sealed glass case, and the author has had no
opportunity of examining it closely. The thickness of
the metal of the body and limbs (regardless of the amount
of oxidation which now tends to mask it) confirms the
author in his opinion, as it would be impossible to raise
metal to such perfect external shape by any means
BRONZE INDUSTRY OF ANCIENT EGYPT. 37
available to the ancient Egyptians, or indeed even at
the present time, by hand, unless the metal were very
thin when finished.
This statue appears then to have been wholly made
by the cire perdu or waste wax process, a method that
was not introduced into Greece, the country to which
we owe the most perfect antique examples of it, until
about 600 B.C. — that is to say, some two thousand years
Although the cire perdu process of casting has been
many times described, a short outline of it will not be
out of place here.
We have seeoi that the process is of great antiquity,
and that, in all probability, the Egyptians originated
it : to-day it remains in use in the jewellery and metal
work trades with very few alterations or improvements.
In its simplest form it may be employed for making soHd
castings, the model being fashioned in wax, accurate in
shape and detail, coated with the moulding substance,
and afterwards embedded in sand, loam, or other similar
material to support the mould. The whole is then heated
and the wax model is either wholly burnt away or poured
off through holes left for the purpose or through the
" gate " (the hgle prepared for admission of the molten
metal). The mould is then ready for receiving the
According to old records, besides being used as food,
honey was available for embalming purposes, and so
there was no doubt a plentiful supply of beeswax always
to be had for modelling purposes.
The statue of Piupi is our earliest example of a bronze
or copper statue made by the cire perdu process. This,
like many other smaller statues and statuettes that have
been preserved to us, is a cored casting, and the
38 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
production of this kind of casting is much more compH-
cated than the simple process described above.
Whether it was for reasons of economy with regard to
metal, or lightness in weight of the finished articles, or
because of difficulties in procuring large amounts of wax,
that hollow cas;bing was introduced, we do not know, but
the genius who first invented the process of cored casting
deserves to be remembered amongst the pioneers of the
founders' craft. We do find, however, that the process
was laboriously applied to very small articles, which
rather indicates that saving of metal rather than weight
was one of the main objects.
The modifications introduced by the ancient Egyptians
when doing cored work by the waste wax process were
as follows : —
The sand or loam core was formed roughly to the shape
of the article to be made, and afterwards it was given a
thin coating of wax. This coating received the shaping
and moulding at the hands of the sculptor. The mould
itself was applied over the wax in the same way as for
solid castings, but some means was required for pre-
venting any movement of the core after the wax was
run off. Professor Flinders Petrie, in his work on the
Arts and Crafts of Ancient Egypt, says that the method
by which the Egyptians accomplished this is a doubtful
matter, and he goes on to say that out of some hundreds
of unfinished bronzes that he has examined, he has never
found any connection above the base between the core
and the metal. There is, however, no need to confine
such examinations to unfinished articles, as in finished
ones the core material is often found intact, except, of
course, that destructive examination cannot generally
be applied to sound specimens, as they are very
BRONZE INDUSTRY OF ANCIENT EGYPT. 39
In later times, it is known that iron cross supports
passing from the core, through the wax, to the mould
were used, and this method continues in use at the present
time. Some writers assert that the earlier Egyptians
used supports of bronze. This is unlikely, because, being
relatively small, the molten metal would melt them when
The question as to how the cores were secured is,
however, not such a difficult one as it appears. The
writer fortunately obtained an early Egyptian bronze
article, the use of which is not apparent. He submitted
it to several archaeologists, but none could state the
Fig. 5. — Bronze Foot.
probable use of the object ; on each side it w^as engraved
with a lotus flower and the Ankle or symbol of life.
As will be seen from Fig. 5, it is something like the
shape of a human foot, and when received contained a
sand core wholly enclosed by the metal. It was, there-
fore, certain that there must have been some means of
holding the former during casting, and a minute investi-
gation showed that an iron wire strut had been employed.
The strut was still in place, but, being completely oxidised
in the' black core material and to some extent diffused
amongst it, it was only detected with difficulty.
The struts in small articles being so thin (in the case
40 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
of the casting above described the section only measured
\ inch by tjV inch), they are completely oxidised, and
only with difficulty can the swollen and disintegrated mass
of oxide be recognised amongst the sandy core. The
difficulties due to the oxidation of iron wires as described
above probably explain why Professor Flinders Petrie
has never found a retaining strut in an antique casting
of Egyptian origin.
A photograph of a section of the casting referred to
will be found in Fig. 6. The position of the iron wire
is shown, whilst the portion of the core material per-
Fig. 6. — Section of Bronze Foot.
-Bronze Charm Box.
meated with ferric oxide has been left in place, and is
just discernible in the illustration.
Another specimen of a casting with a wholly enclosed
core, and which contained the remains of an iron strut,
is that shown in Fig. 7. It was intended as a charm,
and probably originally contained some part, perhaps a
tooth, of a crocodile or lizard. There is a model of the
animal on the top. When the author got it, one side
had already been broken open and the contents removed,
so it is not known what substance the enclosed relic
was embedded in. The photograph shows one of the sides
BRONZE INDUSTRY OF ANCIENT EGYPT. 41
after filing, and the position of the iron strut (wholly
oxidised) which was thereby exposed is marked.
The sun and snake emblem, originally fixed to the
head of a statuette, and the statuette head shown in
Figs. 8 and 9, were both hollow castings, and each had
an iron strut. In the former the strut went through the
centre, and in the latter it passed straight through the
head just above the ears. In both, the diameter of the
wire was not more than one-sixteenth inch, and was
-Sun and Snake Emblem.
Fig. 9. — Head of Statuette.
It should not be overlooked that most of the cored
articles found to-day are small in size and nearly all
have at least one hole somewhere, as part of their design,
through which a very substantial support of some kind
could have passed from the core to the mould, and these
small articles would not generally need more than one
support. Even the various parts of the Piupi statue
could have been cast with no other supports than those
which could have been passed through the open end of
42 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
As the cire perdu process of casting gave a perfect
reproduction of the finest details of the model, little
work was left for the engraver to do afterwards. It
was a difficult system to work, because the wax coating
had to be very uniform in thickness, in order to prevent
flaws in the solid metal owing to unequal contraction at
places of varying thickness ; and also considerable diffi-
culties in ensuring flow of the metal to all parts had to
One of these difficulties is exemplified in the portion of
Fig. 10. — Statuette of Goddess Isis.
a statuette of the Goddess Isis, bearing Horus on her
knee (Fig. 10). The body was cored, whilst the arms
and the child had necessarily to be solid. At the part
where the right forearm and hand of the goddess-join
her body, the metal was thick as compared with that
of the body itself, and so the unequal contractions of ;the
solidifying metal caused a flaw. This flaw permitted the
corrosive elements to penetrate, and so in time produced
BRONZE INDUSTRY OF ANCIENT EGYPT. 45
the hole seen in Fig. 11, the photograph of the body of
the goddess having been taken after the arm had been
removed. This difficulty must have been a considerable
one in the early working of the cire perdu process by the
ancient Egyptians ; and it has not been without influence
upon the decay of the products.
Another example of earl}^ bronze founding troubles
occurs in the peculiar bronze casting, Fig. 5, alluded
to previously. When it came into the author's hands
one side was bulged outwards and cracked, as shown in
Fig. 11. — Body of Isis : Arm removed.
the photograph. A microscopic examination of a section
of this side proved that the bulge occurred during solidi-
fication of the metal, and must, therefore, have been due
to the gases escaping from the core. The founder evi-
dently had not taken the precaution of thoroughly drying
and venting the cores before casting.
The excellent reproduction of detail and decoration
in the castings of the ancient Egyptians was partly due
to the moulding material used, which was of a smooth,
44 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
non-lumpy nature, being no doubt plaster of Paris with
a suitable admixture of fine sand or ground brick.
It has been stated that plaster could not have been
used, as it crumbles to powder at 260° C, and bronze
moulds must be heated to a much higher temperature.
As a matter of fact, plaster of Paris, with an admixture of
some other more refractory material, such as brick dust,
is in common use to-day for bronze casting.
Many of the artistic productions of the early Egyptian
copper and bronze founders could not have been pro-
duced by any other process. Some are so small that
for the undercut parts no methods of coring or sectional
Fig. 12. — Bronze Snake Crown.
moulding would do. The solid castings were generally
submitted to much engraving for the fine details, but in
most of the hollow work the thinness of the metal pre-
vented this, and so the artist finished the wax model
perfectly, leaving very little ornamentation to be applied
by the engraver. This system, of course, presented no
great difficulties, because the cire perdu process of
casting is the one above all others suitable for the perfect
reproduction of intricate detail and thin sections.
The bronze multiple snake crown, of which a photo-
graph appears in Fig. 12, shows details of the modelling.
The manner of fixing the wax snakes round the frame
BRONZE INDUSTRY OF ANCIENT EGYPT. 45
is apparent from their overlapping in places at the
Fig. 13 is also of interest, because it shows some details
of the foundry practices of the early days. The specimen
is an unfinished casting of the legs of a bird. Whether
a body was formerly attached to them cannot now be
ascertained. The side view shows one runner from the
" pour " to the bottom plate or stand, and another
joining the two legs. From the shape and form of the
Fig. 13. — Unfinished Casting, showing " Gates."
runners, it is possible to picture the little rolls of wax
as the modeller fixed them after completing the model.
The Egyptian workers had already found the necessity
of having several runners, even in small work.
This specimen was a solid casting, so most of the
detail and finishing was left for the engraver to do.
In the front view, Fig. 14, the chisel marks left by the
engraver after he had commenced to smooth the surface
are clearly visible. It is, however, rather curious that
he did not remove the runners before he began this
The cores found in hollow bronze castings of ancient
Egypt have been variously described as blackened sand
46 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
with a little organic matter, and as a mixture of sand
They are generally black or of a dark slate colour,
being no doubt sand from deposits on the Nile bank
similar to that used for founding in Egypt to-day. The
author has only come across one example with a core
reddened by heat and approximating more to the loam
used in English foundries.
The organic matter is chiefly carbon, and when origin-
ally added would no doubt have been either bone dust or
sawdust, put in with the object of producing the necessary
Fig. 14. — Chisel Marks on Unfinished Casting.
porosity when burnt out during the filling of the
One of the best and largest specimens of cored work
that has been discovered is the bronze lion that is de-
picted in Fig. 15, which belongs to the Saitic period,
and is supposed to have formed part of a door fastening
of some kind. The artistic merit of the production does
not call for comment here ; it was the effort of the
sculptor who modelled the wax, and there was, therefore,
no pattern maker to be commended. The actual casting
BRONZE INDUSTRY OF ANCIENT EGYPT. 47
of the article would present no difficulties, but it may
be observed that the links were cast, and their production
as a chain would undoubtedly be a pretty little problem
for the founder. The measurements of the specimen
are lOj inches high by 25 inches long, 'and it is hollowed
from the end, at the tail of the animal.
Another good example is that of the portrait statuette
Fig. 15. — Bronze Door Fastening.
of Rameses IV. (xxth Dynasty), the front view of which
is shown in Fig. 2 (Chapter I.), and the back view in
Fig. 16, of which the limbs are missing. In this case
a good deal of tooling was left to be done after the casting
was made, and so the metal was made fairly thick. The
engraving was very neatly done, both on the back and
the chest, and even to-day the statuette preserves a very
ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY,
striking likeness. The limbs were cast separately and
joined to the body in a manner which will be described
later. Portrait statues of Pharoahs in bronze are rare
Probably the best example of early hollow casting is
6. — Statuette of Rameses IV
Fig. 17. — Statue of Horus.
a statue of Horus, now in the Louvre, of which a photo-
graph appears in Fig. 17. This specimen is one of the
largest in existence, being about half life size, and is stated
to belong to the xviiith Dynasty.
BRONZE INDUSTRY OF ANCIENT EGYPT. 49
Of cored work of Roman times in Egypt, the bronze
vase (Fig. 18) may be given as an example. It is, of
course, not a specimen of the best work of the Roman
period, but it is of interest as showing the remarkable
Fig. 18. — Bronze Vase.
regularity of thickness of the metal. The photograph
of the half -section (Fig. 19) shows this clearly : the
wax modelling must have been perfect.
50 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
A good example of a solid casting is given in Fig. 20.
This is a statuette of the God Thoth. It was cast in
sections and cleverly joined. Had the attempt been
made to cast the figure in one piece, it is probable that
Fig. 19. — Section of Bronze Vase.
the extended arms of the wax model would have tended
to droop, and thus have spoilt the work. The modelling
was well done, the figure being perfectly proportioned.
The attainment of anatomical correctness (in so far as
BRONZE INDUSTRY OF ANCIENT EGYPT. 51
it follows the human form) in a model made up of separate
parts joined together must have been a matter of some
difficulty. There are, however, many Egyptian statuettes
of even greater merit than this example.
Many of the statuettes, especially those of which the
Fig. 20.— Statuette of God Thoth.
bodies were cored, were cast in sections and the limbs
cleverly fitted to the bodies by mechanical joints — that
is to say, without any binding medium such as solder or
52 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
These joints were no doubt hidden to some extent
by hammering the visible dividing Unes, or in some
instances by engraving a decorative arm band. Many
statuettes are now found minus the hmbs, the latter
having fallen out of their sockets as corrosion advanced.
The types of joints used by the ancient Egyptians
were chiefly variations of the ordinary mortise joint.
In the simplest type the two surfaces were ground quite
flat, and were held together by a central bronze pin.
This type of joint generally occurs midway between
Fig. 21. — Section through Arm-iomt.
the shoulder and the elbow ; it was also sometimes used
for affixing the feet.
The most intricate type of joint that the author has
seen is that on the statuette of Rameses IV. shown in
Fig. 21 is a photograph of an arm- joint cut through
the mortise and tenon. The jointing was very well
done, and may be taken as an example, on a small
scale, of fitters' work of early Egyptian times. The
tongue which projected from the shoulder of the specimen
is readily distinguished from the two sides of the socket,
BRONZE INDUSTRY OF ANCIENT EGYPT. 53
because it was made of poorer metal, which corroded
more readily than that of the arm itself.
Another pattern of joint which must have required
skill on the part of the early workers in order to secure
a rigid fit, is that found on the statuette of Horus, in
the Louvre, shown in Fig. 17. In this the tenon is not
part of the metal of the body, but is separate, and is
fitted to the latter in a wedge-shaped seating as depicted
in the drawing in Fig. 22. The tenon is simply a trape-
zoidal projection which was fitted into a suitable hole
Fig. 22. — Joint of Horus.
through the arm, and the tenon would no doubt be
ri vetted over afterwards.
Portions of head-dresses, beards, and decorative pieces
were also sometimes cleverly mortised into the bodies
of statues and statuettes.
The bulk of early artistic casting having been done
by the wax process, the craft of the old moulders was less
important and less scientific than it is to-day, but still
much skill was required in the selection of materials for
cores, and in arranging the moulds so that the molten
metal would run to the thinnest parts. They certainly
specialised in thin castings. So far as we know, there
54 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
was no moulding in loam or sand by means of flasks or
similar contrivances, and, therefore, no wooden patterns
or core boxes were required.
It may be remarked that the ancient Egyptians were
very successful in casting metals and alloys which we
should regard as being very impure and of unsatisfactory
Fig. 23. — Mould for Oniamental Head of Pedestal.
composition. It is almost certain that they always heated
their moulds prior to pouring ; in fact, most of the
finest work could not have been produced otherwise.
Plain articles, such as chisels, etc., were no doubt
sometimes cast in open moulds ; indeed, some of the
BRONZE INDUSTRY OF ANCIENT EGYPT. 55
latter are said to have been found, but closed stone
moulds in two halves were certainly in use, and even
bronze moulds may have been used, but probably not
There is in the Cairo Museum half of a stone mould
of an ornamental head for a pole or pedestal. A drawing
of it is given in Fig. 23. It has two replacing holes, and
it was clearly used for making shell castings in the manner
in which cheap statuettes are produced to-day, by filHng
the mould and, when a skin has solidified, pouring off
the remaining liquid metal. Hollow bronze castings
identical in type with this mould have been found, and
may be seen in Cairo Museum.
So far as the author is aware, there are no other antique
Egyptian moulds for bronze in existence, but two of
Assyrian origin may be quoted, as with the considerable
intercourse that took place between the two countries
during dynastic times, it is almost certain that they
were general types introduced into Syria from Egypt,
or, conversely, that they must have been introduced into
Egypt during that time, although as yet no specimens
have been unearthed in the latter country.
The first is a mould made of bronze for making arrow
tips found near Mossul ; drawings of it are given in
Fig. 24, taken from a communication by E. A. Budge
to the Society of Biblical Archaeology, Proc, 1884, vi.,
109. The following is the description given : —
This bronze mould for arrow heads is a perfect specimen ;
it is 2f inches in height and IJ inches in width. The
movable dies, when fitted in their places, are 2J inches
across, and the base 3f inches. The mould consists of
six pieces : an elliptical base, hollowed to a depth of
f of an inch, containing three tapering bronze points
(which formed the cores of the arrows), situated at regular
56 AXCIEXT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY'.
intervals of half-an-inch from each other, the middle
one being 1 inch high, and the other two | inch. At
each end of this portion (outside) there is a projection,
Fig. 24. — Mould for Arrow Tips.
which would almost lead one to suppose that it was
fixed in wood or stone. Four pieces of bronze, A, B,
BRONZE IXDUSTRY OF ANCIENT EGYPT. 57
C, D, being the movable dies mentioned above, fit into
the base accurately, and together with it form the actual
mould of the arrow heads. The whole is held together
by a movable ring of bronze fitting closely over the top
of the mould. Three arrow heads could be cast in this
mould at one time : two three-bladed, and one one-
bladed. The single-bladed arrow head, showing a barb
cast on the shaft, is also shown in Fig. 24 ; the other
two castings from the same mould are of the same form,
with the exception that they are three -edged, somewhat
resembling a bayonet. Drawings (2) and (3) are some-
what similar ones found at Babylon. The inner surfaces
of the dies are carefully smoothed, and the dividing lines,
sHghtly engraved in order to ensure precision in cutting
the mould, still remain.
It is now in the Babylonian and Assyrian room of the
British Museum. The style of arrow tip made by this
mould is identical with many that are found on old
sites in Egypt, and this fact indicates that this type of
mould may have been in use in both countries. The
life of a bronze mould used for making castings of the
same alloy cannot have been a long one, but it w^ould
probably be much longer than the layman might expect,
because rapid cooling was ensured by the mass of metal
comprising the mould being many times greater than
that of the molten metal it was to hold.
In the Louvre there are several unfinished solid Hittite
statuettes in bronze with the fins still remaining at the
sides, thus showing that they were cast in double moulds.
There is also, from prehistoric Crete, a double jewellery
mould of granite with replacing holes.
It would seem that in Egypt the best work was alw^ays
done by the wax process, but that for statuettes of the
gods for the poor, who could not afford to pay a sculptor,
58 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
repetition castings from stone moulds were probably
It is somewhat remarkable that, after taking great
pains with the modelling and finishing of bronze statues
and statuettes, the Egyptians covered many of them
with plaster, just as they did some of their finest sculp-
tures in stone of all kinds. The explanation given for
the latter probably also applies in the case of the former.
The plaster was put on so that the work could be coloured ;
they showed great fondness and much aptitude for
painting. Figs. 25 and 26 show front and back views of
a bronze statuette of the God Osiris, which has pittings
chiselled over the body to make the plaster adhere.
Many bronze statuettes were gilded in the later periods.
A feature of the bronze work of the Saitic period was
the bringing out of detail of dress and ornamentation
In many statuettes the eyes were inlaid with gold,
but occasionally the whole of the dress and jewellery
is found to have been splendidly executed in gold or
silver inlay, similar to some Oriental work of to-day and
carried out in the same way, grooves having been cut
and the inlay metal hammered into them in the form of
One of the choicest examples of this work is the
statuette of Queen Koramama, xxiind Dynasty (just
pre-Saitic), in the Louvre. It has an exquisitely traced
necklace in gold and silver inlay. Another fine specimen
is in the Athens Museum, whilst the British Museum
contains several examples, though of less elaborate
design. Readers able to do so are strongly advised to
visit the Third Egyptian Room of the British Museum.
Another branch of Egyptian bronze founding was
that of making weapons, particularly lance and arrow
BRONZE INDUSTRY OF ANCIENT EGYPT. 59
points. Very few swords of Egyptian make have been
found, and it would seem that this weapon was not much
used until at least the Grseco-Roman times.
Battle axes and daggers were, however, made of copper
and bronze from an early date. Specimens of these
Fig. 25. — Fittings on Statuette
of Osiris. Front View.
Fig. 26. — Fittings on Statuette of
Osiris. Back View.
weapons, bearing chasing and inlay decoration, have
even been found amongst the personal equipment in
the tombs of queens and princesses, although we must
6o ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
suppose these ladies carried them for ceremonial purposes
At first the arrow and lance tips were simply hammered
from cast rods of copper to a flat-pointed section with
two cutting edges, but later they were cast in a variety
of shapes. Copper and bronze arrow tips were in general
use in Egypt until Arab times — that is to say, during
the whole of the Graeco-Roman times — when iron was
commonly employed for other purposes both in this
country and elsewhere.
The earliest forms, being simply reproductions in
bronze of the types previously used in flint, had a tang,
Fig. 27. — Arrow Tip.
as shown in Fig. 27, which was inserted in the end of
the arrow and secured by tying. Other forms were cast
with a socket, into which the arrow was fitted ; no doubt
this pattern came in as an improvement upon the tanged
Some other kinds of articles for which bronze was
employed will be found in the illustrations. The copper
nail (Fig. 28) is authoritatively attributed to the xviiith
Dynasty (b.c. 1500). It was hammered to shape from
copper rod, and is very similar to copper nails made
to-day for certain purposes. Indeed, but for the fact
BRONZE INDUSTRY OF ANCIENT EGYPT. 6i
that the specimen had a cuprous oxide coating one
thirty-second of an inch thick, it might have passed for a
Fig. 28. — Copper Nail, xviiith Dynasty.
The Grseco-Eoman razor (Fig. 29) was made of impure
copper, cast roughly to shape, and afterwards finished
by hammering. Readers may ponder over the efforts
of a man attempting to shave with a copper blade, but
it may be remarked that a highly ground steel razor
is not essential, for natives of several parts of the world
Fig. 29. — -Copper Eazor.
still effectively carry out this operation with pieces of
broken glass or tin-plate.
Besides tools and weapons, the Egyptians made many
62 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
domestic utensils of copper and bronze, marked very often
by considerable beauty of form.
We have seen that the forming of metal objects by
casting is of great age, and probably an equal antiquity
may be claimed for another process, " raising " ; that
of making vessels by hammering sheets of metal to the
required shape. The author's experience leads him to
think, however, that raising was much less in vogue in
Egypt, even up to the Roman occupation, than has been
supposed hitherto. The process of beating the metal
to shape was, with the exception of gold work, up to the
commencement of the Grseco-Roman times at least,
confined to articles of simple form, and even of these
most were first roughly cast to shape. Soldering and
brazing being unknown, vessels required with handles,
spouts, and similar projections, either had to be cast
in one piece, or they had to be made up of raised or
semi-raised bodies and cast projections, the latter being
fixed by rivets. The former method was more generally
used, simply because of the difficulty of making water-
tight joints by the other process.
There are several allusions in catalogues of different
museums and other relevant works to bronze and copper
vessels which are stated to have raised bodies, and cast
handles, spouts, etc., welded on, and a similar method
of construction has been attributed to the Piupi statue
mentioned on p. 36, but the author feels certain that
these statements are wrong. Welding of copper or bronze
has never yet been satisfactorily accomplished, and even
in modern times the joints made by the oxy hydrogen or
oxyacetylene process of autogenous welding as applied
to these two metals cannot be said to be wholly perfect.
Some joints may have been made in early days by pouring
molten metal over and around the two pieces to be joined,
BRONZE INDUSTRY OF ANCIENT EGYPT. 63
the process known as running-on, but this cannot be
regarded as welding in the proper sense of the term.
An example of a late Egyptian metal vessel (Roman
or Byzantine period) with a spout and a handle is given
in Fig. 30. The entire vessel w^as cast in one piece, and
the decoration, after the style of a lion's head, seen on
the spout, was done by chisel work subsequently. The
evidence for this is given in Chapter V. If this pot formed
part of a museum collection, it would very probably be
described as having a body shaped by hammering and
Fig. 30. — Egyptian Vessel (Roman or Bj-zantine).
cast projections joined together by welding, but it is
not so, although it is a very late example.
As a further indication that raising was not in general
use even so late as Roman times, the Roman ladle, of
which a photograph appears in Fig. 31, may be taken.
This article, which could have been made with facility
by hammering from a suitably shaped disc of copper or
bronze, was cast in one piece.
The catalogues of some museums give accounts of
vases, bowls, and other vessels supposed to have been
made by raising, but a microscopical examination of the
64 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
objects would probably show that many of them were
It is essential to note the difference between raising—
that is, the gradual shaping of a vessel by hammering,
stage by stage, from a disc of metal — and the forming
of such a vessel by casting it roughly to shape and putting
on the finishing touches with the hammer. The latter
process appears to have been very much used by the
Fig. 31. — ^Roman Ladle.
Fig. 32. — Bronze Vase.Txviiith Dj^nasty.
ancient Egyptians, but it is quite different from our
present method of raising.
The extended use of raising would imply a knowledge
of annealing, and of the latter we have little or no evi-
dence. Some of the vessels said to have been wrought
from bronze and copper by raising could not have been
made without several annealings during the course of
their manufacture, as, for instance, a bronze vase of the
BRONZE INDUSTRY OF ANCIENT EGYPT. 65
xviiith Dynasty of the shape shown m Fig. 32, which
was used for washing the sandals of the priests. The
neck is said to have an internal diameter of IJ inches,
the thickness of the metal xV inch, and the vessel would
not be easy to make by raising from bronze even to-day.
The author fully believes that a microscopical examination
of the metal would show that it was cast.
It may also be remarked that the tin content of some
of the bronzes, and the deleterious impurities of much
copper work, absolutely preclude the possibility of their
having been wrought to shape either hot or cold.
There is some difficulty in getting for examination
specimens of antique objects of the early dynasties
which could possibly have been made by raising, as
vessels produced by this means must necessarily have
been thin, and thin sections of copper and bronze are
often found to be entirely corroded, being, therefore,
useless for purposes of metallographic investigation.
The question of the time and place of the first method-
ical use of an annealing process is an interesting, though
a somewhat difficult one. Many of the earliest metal
objects now found would need no annealing in the course
of their manufacture. The cutting edges of tools were
hammered cold, in order to produce a hardened surface,
and, therefore, annealing would have been harmful and
One article that has come into the author's hands
gives us some information on this question. It is a piece
of copper strip of the xiith Dynasty, J inch wide by ^V
inch thick. Lengths of this copper strip were used by
the Egyptians for tying together pieces of woodwork
before the days of nails. It would be essential that
strips for purposes of this nature should be as soft as
possible, and, therefore, it is not unreasonable to suppose
66 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
that, had their metallurgists been aware that a thorough
annealing conferred the maximum softness, and had
they learnt to apply it as a definite process, they
would certainly have subjected these strips to the
The sample was very rich in arsenic, containing about
4 per cent., and viewed under the microscope, it was
clear that it had never been annealed. There were,
however, indications that the strip had been hammered
to shape in the hot state from a thin copper rod, and by
this means the maker probably obtained the degree of
softness that suited his requirements, but never thought
of anneahng as a distinct operation.
It is almost certain that the hot working of metals
preceded the use of anneahng processes, and the latter
would not become essential until raising was employed
for making other than plain articles in copper and
bronze. It is extremely improbable also that the ancient
Egyptians were able to fashion elaborate articles in
bronze and copper in the hot state, especially if we are
to accept the statement that handled hammers were
unknown. For although we know that their iron was,
and in some parts of the world iron is still, forged to
shape with handleless stone hammers simply held in the
palm of the hand, such a method would not admit of
the careful and almost delicate precision, both as to the
weight of the blow and the point to be struck, that is
essential in forming a vessel of intricate shape from a
sheet of copper or bronze.
The copper strip previously alluded to was obtained
from the wooden sarcophagus shown in Fig. 33, now in
the Cairo Museum. All the wooden joints of this coffin
are further secured by strips of this kind passing in
bunches through holes made for the purpose and the ends
BRONZE INDUSTRY OF ANCIENT EGYPT. 67
twisted together. They can be seen in places in the
When the specimen was received, the copper was in
an unusually good state of preservation, with practically
no corrosion, having been well protected by the wood-
work in which it was embedded, and was probably only
slightly less tough than a similar piece of copper of the
Fig. 33. — Wooden Sarcophagus.
same composition that might be made at the present
time. It withstood ten bendings backwards and for-
wards through 45° before fracture, thus displaying a
state of excellence seldom found in old metal pro-
The following is the analysis : —
ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
Copper by diff
The author has come across no antique Egyptian
metal article of periods prior to Graeco-Roman times
(to which annealing during manufacture would have
been beneficial or necessary) which shows indisputable
evidence of annealing. There is little doubt that annealing
was a fairly late invention.
When dealing with these antique specimens from the
annealing point of view, it is necessary to bear in mind
the two different ways in which annealing effects in the
microstructure may have been produced. Firstly, there
is intentional annealing carried out with definite objects
in view, and secondly, accidental or fortuitous heating.
The latter may be subdivided into» annealing due to
ageing on the one hand, and that due to unintentional
heating, such as fires in buildings, cities, etc., as well as
heating during use, such as cooking vessels would be
subjected to, on the other hand.
Ageing effects will be discussed in a later chapter ;
they are trifling in extent. The same cannot, however,
be said with respect to accidental heating during the
lifetime of the finished article. In such cases we have
often external appearances to guide us, although in a
specimen some thousands of years old, which may have
undergone several changes of situation both before and
BRONZE INDUSTRY OF ANCIENT EGYPT. 69
after the time at which it was lost or deposited, these
indications may have been obhterated. The writer has,
therefore, always rejected specimens showing indications
of over-heating, such as a coarse granular micro-structure,
and so on. These specimens were few in number, and
in several of them the external appearance left no doubt
that they had been in a fire after manufacture.
In spite of what has been written on the subject,
there is no positive evidence of welding or brazing of
copper and bronze, or of soft soldering, before late
Roman times. Welding of copper or bronze is, as stated
previously, out of the question, though some repairs
were undoubtedly effected by a process of pouring liquid
metal into the hole or around the fracture, as the case
required, but this cannot be called either welding or
As evidence of the general ignorance of brazing or
any similar process of joining metals, the Roman vase
(Fig. 18) may again be quoted. This vessel, together
with another very similar in design obtained by the
author, was produced by casting, but the bottom was
cast separately, when it might easily have been cast in
one with the body. It was not brazed in, but was simply
hammered into a conical seating. This is readily seen
from the photograph of the section (Fig. 19), and it will
be noticed that it was not properly hammered home aU
round. A photograph of the section of the lower portion
of the second vase is also given (Fig. 34), from which the
method of fixing the bottom is very clear ; the latter
remains bent as the hammering left it w^hen put in.
No soldering, brazing, or welding can be detected in
the joints of statuettes that were built up of sections
and cleverly joined together, and surely if any of these
methods had been in common use at the time, it would
70 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY,
have been used for effecting any necessary repairs and
for fixing the bottoms of these Roman vases.
A silver bowl attributed to the xxth Dynasty has been
stated by one writer to have been probably produced
by spinning. In spite of the fact that the forming of
circular-shaped vessels by spinning the metal is merely
a development of the process of pottery-making on a
potter's wheel, it may safely be said that metal spinning
was quite unknown in primitive times, and, of course,
was not indispensable for the making of the bowl in
Fig. 34. — Bottom of Bronze Vase.
question, as it could readily have been produced either
by casting and afterwards grinding and polishing, or
by raising by hand. There is absolutely no evidence
that the ancient Egyptians possessed a knowledge of
metal spinning, or that they ever had tools that could
have been used for such a purpose.
Wire drawing also was unknown. The fine gold wire
used in ornamental work was made by cutting strips
of the metal from sheets and welding them together.
BRONZE INDUSTRY OF ANCIENT EGYPT. 71
With regard to the methods used for finishing metal
objects we know very httle. At first no doubt they
apphed to metals the processes they had used with such
conspicuous success upon stone, as, for instance, cutting,
carving, grinding, and polishing.
From the beginning of Egyptian history, grinding and
polishing were done on hard stones with exquisite results,
in some cases a fiawless, glass-like surface being obtained.
Fig. 35. — ^Bronze Mirror.
and it is known that they had emery, whilst, of course,
fine sand existed in abundance. But something more
than these materials was necessary for the production
of such perfect results, and it would be interesting to
know how, and of what substance, they made the
powders they used for obtaining the finished surface in
both stone and metal.
The mirror shown in Fig. 35 was polished on both
72 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
sides, and, strange to say, it is dished on both sides to
a depth of about yV inch at the centre. This may suggest
that some kind of mechanical pohshing with a revolving
bob was used.
Repousse decoration seems to have been applied
only to gold articles at first, and indeed the author does
not know of any purely Egyptian work of this kind
Fig. 36.— Collapsible Stand (Closed).
on bronze or copper. Chasing and engraving were ex-
tensively and cleverly used on both these metals ; almost
every statuette bears some engraving.
In our own time, the methods of working metals by
hand — that is to say, those processes requiring no
machinery — fall under the headings of founding, raising,
BRONZE INDUSTRY OF ANCIENT EGYPT. 73
engraving, chasing, engraving inlaying, and repousse
work. All these processes were known to the early
Egyptians, and were used by them with great ability
before the commencement of the Christian era.
As an example of the advance made in mechanical
Fig. 37.— Collapsible Stand (Open).
constructions during Grseco-Roman times, the stand
shown in Figs. 36 and 37 may be taken. This interesting
piece of work, which may possibly have been made abroad
and imported into Egypt during either the Ptolemaic
74 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
or Roman period, is a collapsible franae made of bent
copper strips, and is still in working order, notwithstanding
the somewhat corroded state of the metal. The photo-
graphs show the stand both closed and open. Here we
have the origin of the collapsible frame furniture, which
is so extensively used at the present time for camp use.
The bowl shown was simply placed on the stand for
photographing, and is not an adjunct to the stand.
Why it should have been considered necessary to make
such a small stand (size about 4 by 6 inches) collapsible
is not obvious, but most likely it was only a model
intended for the equipment of a grave ; there are much
larger stands of this type in the Roman room of the
As the earliest Egyptians, even up to Roman times,
did not understand brazing or soldering, their methods
of repairing metal articles were necessarily simple. The
vase shown in Fig. 18 had a flaw when cast, which left
a small hole in the side. This was plugged with a little
rod of bronze hammered flat on the outside, but left
penetrating inside the vessel, as shown in Fig. 19, as it
was not accessible for hammering.
To meet suggestions which may be proffered that
this rod was one of the struts used for holding the core
during casting by the wax process, it may be said, firstly,
that struts were quite unnecessary, as the vase was open
top and bottom, thus allowing ample means for securing
the core ; secondly, that the rod was only J inch long,
and was tapered on the inside, obviously in order that it
should securely fit the hole and make a water-tight
seating for itself ; and thirdly, and chiefly, that the
metal of the vase immediately round the plug was burred
over into the interior just as the tapered rod had left it
when forced into position.
BRONZE INDUSTRY OF ANCIENT EGYPT. 75
As the bottom of the vase, as well as that of a second
similar vessel of the same period, was fixed in place
by similar means, it may be taken as being one of the
methods of construction and repair in vogue at the
Another method of rej)airing flaws, which has pre-
viously been alluded to, was applied to the bronze
Roman pot in Fig. 38. This vessel had three repairs,
each consisting of flaws
that were closed by
running molten metal
into them. That they
were flaws in manu-
facture is shown by
the fact that the alloy
Fig. 38.— Roman Pot.
Fig. 39. — Repairs in Roman Pot.
used for the repair is the same as that of the body. We
may perhaps assume that this method of repair was used
because the fault occurred in the foundry, and not
subsequently during use of the article.
A photograph of two of the repairs as seen from the
inside of the pot appears in Fig. 39.
^d ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
It became a general practice with the early Egyptians
to make an addition of lead to the bronze used for casting
ornamental and devotional objects. Whether this was
done to economise copper and tin, or to produce a pleasing
patina, is not known, but they seem to have learnt that
a proportion of lead (in some examples it reaches 33 per
cent.) simplified casting, made the metal softer for chasing
and engraving, and that for ornamental objects it was
not objectionable. On the other hand, in antique
Egyptian implements we do not find lead except as an
accidental impurity in trifling amounts.
It should be borne in mind that the statuettes, of
which numbers exist in our museums, are chiefly those of
gods and sacred animals used as votive offerings. They
were placed in temples and in houses to ensure the pro-
tection of the gods. This being so, they may be regarded
as objects of a purely ornamental nature, and it would
not be essential that the metal should be pure or possessed
of any great strength. We find that they were generally
made of very poor metal, and in some cases obviously
cast from scrap metal.
The bronze used for portrait statues and statuettes
of kings and high officials seems, from its external appear-
ance, to be of much better quality (as also is the work-
manship) than that of the religious statuettes. The
metal is harder and more yellow, thus indicating a higher
proportion of tin and less lead, but analyses have rarely
been made, and specimens never fall into the hands of
the investigator because of their value as relics.
It may be mentioned that the guides and other publi-
cations issued by museum authorities are not always
quite careful in distinguishing between copper and
bronze ; there are several instances in which objects
are described as copper in one work and bronze in
BRONZE INDUSTRY OF ANCIENT EGYPT, yy
another. The errors are due probably to the fact that
the statements are not always based on chemical analyses.
This point is occasionally of some importance.
As an instance, we may take a well-known specimen
belonging to the xth Dynasty, generally alluded to as
the Brazier of Khety, and now in the Louvre. In the
catalogue of the British Museum it is spoken of as a
bronze bowl, whilst Professor F. Petrie, in his History
of Egypt, calls it " copper open work of a brazier or some
It has often been asserted that the ancient Egyptians
used for their bronze an identical percentage of tin to
that used at the present day, but this statement, though
near the truth in some respects, needs some qualification.
It may be taken for granted that they found an addition
of tin over a certain percentage produced a brittle,
unworkable alloy which would be quite useless to them
for most purposes.
At the present time bronzes for different purposes are
made of varying proportions of the two constituent
metals, and, also, additions of other metals are made in
small amounts to render the working of -the metal easier,
and to produce other desirable results. The bronze
alloys in use to-day for mechanical purposes do not
contain more than 12 per cent, of tin, and this proportion
we do not find exceeded in the old Egyptian bronze
objects intended for similar uses.
It seems very probable that bronze was first used
for ornamental work, because the early Egyptians found
its colour more pleasing than that of copper, approaching,
as it does, the colour of gold. It is almost certain
that tin was much more expensive than copper to them,
and no added hardness would be required in such objects.
For many years it was supposed that the ancient
78 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
Egyptians had some secret means of hardening copper
and bronze which has since been lost, because, as only
tools of these metals had been discovered on ancient
sites, no other means remained of explaining how the
magnificent works in hard stone were produced during
the earlier dynasties.
In Chapter V. will be found the microscopical evidence
which proves that no secret or other hardening processes
could have been used, but we may consider here some
of the factors which may have conferred additional
hardness upon the copper and bronze made in the old
It is obvious that for the working of wood and the
softer stones no special hardening of the metal tools
would be called for. The increase of hardness conferred
by hammering the cutting edge of the tool in the cold
state would suffice ; but for such hard stones as to-day
require the best steel tools for their manipulation, it
cannot be agreed that hammered bronze or copper
would do ; in fact, experiments made b}^ the author
have conclusively proved otherwise.
A method of increasing the hardness of copper is to
make an addition of another metal, such as iron, arsenic,
nickel, etc., but although these are found in old specimens
of tools in small amounts either as impurities or ingredi-
ents (more probably the former), they cannot have con-
ferred sufficient hardness for the special purpose above
mentioned, and it may be added that the hardening
effects of these metals must have been much modified
by the presence of other impurities, such as bismuth,
lead, and cuprous oxide, which are invariably found,
separately or collectively, in old specimens of tools.
Bismuth, than which there is no more harmful impurity
in copper, occurs in many of the analyses which have
BRONZE INDUSTRY OF ANCIENT EGYPT. 79
been carefully made of copper tools, and it is impossible
thaj; chisels of such impure metal, with its inherent
brittleness, could have been of the slightest use in the
chiselling of hard stone. It is certain that, even supposing
a cutting edge could be prepared on such chisels suffici-
ently hard for use on hard stone, it would not even stand
the shock of the blows in carving.
An interesting tradition that was mentioned to the
author by the late Sir Gaston Maspero, the famous
director of Egyptian antiquities, relates that antique
copper was hardened by heating the metal and then
quenching in the blood of oxen. We know, of course,
that such treatment would be much more likely to
soften the metal than to harden it. It w^ould seem
a method much more likely to have been applied to
The idea of secret hardening processes for copper and
bronze formerly entertained by archaeologists is, how-
ever, now held by only a few, but is superseded by other
theories of a more plebeian, but not more feasible, nature.
These are dealt with in a later chapter, and we may
say definitely and finally that the ancient Egyptian
metallurgists knew nothing about these two metals that
we do not know to-day.
The latest researches show that the hardness of certain
bronzes may be modified by carefully applied heat treat-
ment, but the range in variation is not great, and as
modern apparatus for governing the temperatures is
absolutely necessary, the method would not be available
to the ancients.
There is, however, little need to spend time endeavouring
to find out hardening processes that might have been
applied to bronze, because works in hard stone were
carved during the extensive lapse of time prior to the
8o ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
introduction of tin into Egypt, and, therefore, the
question is limited to the hardening of copper.
With regard to the presence of arsenic in antique
Egyptian copper, archaeologists have stated that the
arsenic was no doubt intentionally added as a hardener.
This statement is impossible to prove, and there are
many arguments in favour of the view that its presence
is more likely to have been accidental. Firstly, it may
be said that the hardening properties of arsenic are of a
low order, and are much below those of other metals
almost invariably present, as impurities, in these old
specimens, as, for instance, iron, tin, and nickel.
From the ferruginous flux used in smelting, the copper
would take up sufficient iron to confer far more hardness
than arsenic was capable of producing. Secondly, there
is no regularity in the amounts of arsenic found in
different specimens (varying from -02 to 4 per cent.),
and arsenic is found in articles for which the essential
property would be softness and not hardness. Thirdly,
arsenic is such a common impurity of copper that no
further explanation seems necessary to account for its
presence in old specimens.
The argument put forward to support the intentional
addition of arsenic theory is merely that arsenic has not
been found in the few specimens of local cupriferous
ores that have been analysed, nor in the ferruginous
sands used as fluxes. From the mere fact that some of
the copper articles contain arsenic and others do not,
it has been deduced that the Egyptians knew how to
modify the hardness of their metal. To support this,
the arsenic content would need to be fairly regular, and
would not be found in articles for which maximum
softness would be essential. It seems just as possible
that copper from some localities contains arsenic, obtained
BRONZE INDUSTRY OF ANCIENT EGYPT. 8i
either from the ore, the flux, or otherwise in the smelting,
whilst copper from other localities was not so contami-
nated. In any case there is always the possibility that
certain ores or fluxes have been worked out, and that the
samples analysed have not been properly representative.
Unfortunately, there are no contemporary records,
such as tomb paintings and so on, showing the method
of making and working bronze in early Egypt, and so
we are compelled to rely upon the evidence of the finished
articles that are retrieved from the earth, and upon the
information that the latest developments of metallurgical
science enables us to deduce from them.
In the Cairo Museum there is a limestone relief showing
jewellers melting gold, and we assume that similar
methods were employed for bronze.
An old Egyptian crucible was found at Serabit in Sinai,
and was similar in shape to the bowl of a tobacco pipe,
with a hole in the side for pouring ; of what material
it was made is not recorded.
An old copper smelting furnace was also found in the
Sinai Peninsula by Mr. C. T. Currelly, M.A. It comprised
a hole in the ground about 30 inches deep, round which
a circular wall was built having two holes for tuyeres,
one 15 inches higher than the other. The fuel used for
all foundry purposes in ancient Egypt must have been
The production of copper ore at the mines, its reduction
to metal, and the manufacture and working of bronze,
must have been an industry of considerable magnitude,
but whereas we have of the coeval craft of stone- working,
a fair show of statues, temples, and other large pro-
ductions, for all the quarrying that was done in various
parts of the country, we have practically nothing of
importance to show to-day for all the metal that was
82 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
mined, won by conquest, and received in trading opera-
tions. One life-size statue, several parts of what were
presumably complete life-size pieces originally, several
about half life-size, and a few portrait statuettes, are all
the creditable productions that careful and continuous
excavations have brought to light ; and if we add to
them the hundreds of little statuettes and minor articles,
chiefly of insignificant workmanship, the total must still
bear an infinitesimal relation to the actual original output.
The explanation lies more in the secondary value of
the articles as metal, and in the number of revolutions
and changes of rulers that the country experienced, than
in the perishable nature of the metal or actual losses
through the march of ages.
Even during the Greek and Roman periods there
must have been many large bronze statues in Egypt,
for they attracted the notice of Greek visitors. Plutarch
in his Theosophical essays describes some of them, and
is at great pains to endeavour to account for the pleasing
blue colour which they are said to have possessed. Whilst
this patina must necessarily have been in a great measure
due to the composition of the bronze itself, not im-
probably containing gold, the effect was further enhanced
by a coating of oil which was applied to the surface.
It is most unfortunate that the majority of bronze
articles that have been found cannot be assigned to any
period with certainty. Very few bear inscriptions, and
the number found on old sites along with antiquities of
other kinds that can be dated, is small. Most of the
specimens seem to be discovered by natives who assidu-
ously turn over the sand in likely places for such small
articles, and as these persons are often not desirous of
letting the authorities into their secrets, even the locality
from which a specimen comes, is not disclosed.
BRONZE INDUSTRY OF ANCIENT EGYPT. 83
Amongst archaeologists it is the practice to assign to
any non-ferrous metal object not found under known
and convincing circumstances or not bearing marks by
which they may be dated, or not ostensibly prehistoric,
Greek or Roman in design, to the Saitic period, generally
the xxvith Dynasty.
The number of bronzes that are found in Egypt is,
however, diminishing. In former times they were not
uncommon, and the draining of the Lake of Karnak at
Luxor provided almost a glut of certain varieties, but
they are becoming scarce and consequently very expensive.
The statuettes, tools, and other small objects, of
which we possess such numbers, are ver}^ useful for
scientific investigations, as well as for enabling us to
form some idea of the decorative side of Egyptian metal
work, and of its application, but they do not, of course,
enable us to estimate the magnitude, nor the refinements
of early founding, as w^ould large specimens that could
be regarded as chefs cVoeuvres of the craft. It is certain
that, unlike the huge and wonderful stone monuments,
which had little or no intrinsic value to subsequent
rulers and races, copper and bronze work went wholly
into the melting pot during or following revolutions,
wars, and times of national need.
When we reflect that from a state of ignorance the
ancient Egyptian metallurgists evolved the foundations
of an industry which was to have astounding influence
upon the world's civihsation, we can appreciate the
patience, skill, and determination with which they must
have carried out experimental and even research work.
Did we but know them, we might with justice
remember the names of the flrst inventors amongst those
primitive people, of double moulds, of the w^aste wax
casting process, of " cored " castings, and of glazing and
84 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
enamelling, along with those of their successors in the
craft of metal-working of modern times, who discovered
aluminium, electrolytic reduction of metals, and other
similar advancements in metallurgical science and handi-
craft. To us, the first quoted inventions may seem now
somewhat trivial ones as compared with the others, but
we should bear in mind that, whereas modern improve-
ments are the outcome of progressive advancement in
practice and theory over a course of fifty centuries,
the first Egyptian workers had no such ladder of learning
to assist them, but started from a basis of absolute
The fondness that the ancient Egyptians acquired
for copper utensils in the remote days of antiquity still
survives in Egypt to-day. The poorest native prefers
his stew pot to be of this metal in preference to the more
economical cast iron now in general use elsewhere, for
he knows copper vessels always have an intrinsic value,
and to him they act as a sort of bank, just as some of
his more flourishing countrymen load their women with
gold jewellery, buying and selling it as changes in cir-
Mention should be made of a secondary use that was
made of metals in the form of their oxides for producing
glazes, enamels, coloured glass, and paints. Blue glazes
were applied to pottery even in prehistoric days, and
subsequently green, violet, black, red, and white ones
from the oxides of copper, cobalt, manganese, iron,
We also find that metals and their oxides were included
in medical prescriptions, as, for instance, a remedy for
inflammation of the eye, which was made up of myrrh,
white oil, antimony, and oxide of copper, together with
other items of more or less medicinal or toxic value.
THE IRON AGE IN EGYPT.
There is no doubt whatever that iron in its metalhc
form was known in Egypt at least as far back as the
ivth Dynasty ; indeed, it would be somewhat difficult
of explanation had it been otherwise, seeing that, at
that time, another metal far more difficult to obtain
from its ores (copper) was being extensively produced,
and that iron itself, in the form of haematite, occurred
in much greater quantity than copper.
Surface ores no doubt existed in abundance ; articles
such as head rests, beads, and statuettes carved from
haematite, which have been found on old sites, tend to
There are to-day considerable deposits of haematite
in the southern and south-eastern portions of Sinai
Peninsular, and in certain parts of Egypt, such as the
north-eastern and south-eastern deserts, besides red and
brown ochres and ferruginous sandstones. Readers
interested in the actual sites of present iron ore in Egypt
are referred to an authentic paper, entitled " The Dis-
tribution of Iron Ores in Egypt," by Dr. W. F. Hume,
Director of the Egyptian Geological Survey.
Old iron workings occur at Wadi Abu Jerida in the
north-eastern desert, but these are thought to be Roman.
It may well have been, however, that the Romans were
merely the last people to work them.
The date of the commencement of the iron age in
86 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
Egypt is perennially discussed, and unfortunately but
little fresh evidence comes along as time progresses.
An apology is needed for introducing matters of a
somewhat polemical nature into a practical work as this
is intended mainly to be, but polemics are almost in-
separable from archaeology, and, as the subject is inti-
mately associated with the beginnings of the metal
worker's craft, a plain statement of the two sides of the
argument, from a metallurgical standpoint, is not out-
side the scope of the book, as the practical man will
thereby be enabled to give his opinion on an interesting
problem which has not hitherto been so fully presented
Readers should bear in mind, however, that some of
the archaeological evidence is, of necessity, exceedingly
slender, especially much that is based upon the works
of such academic writers as Pliny, Homer, and Plutarch.
Further, on almost every important question, archaeolo-
gists of repute hold opposite views, and whilst the
majority appear to favour the date of 1000 B.C. for the
first application of iron in Egypt, several, including Dr.
Budge, of the British Museum, are inclined to believe
that the metal was used much earlier.
As iron is far less workable than copper and most
other metals, difficulties in working may have limited
its application when it was first introduced. Also, seeing
that it must be worked hot, and handled hammers w^ere
unknown at the time, it is quite within the bounds of
possibility that the men skilled in its manipulation were,
for a considerable period, few in number.
Some writers have suggested that the paucity of
antique iron objects in Egypt may be due to the fact
that iron existed in a native state in pockets, and that
these being discovered only occasionally, only a small
THE IRON AGE IN EGYPT. 87
number of articles could be made. But there is little
need of this explanation, as the oxides of iron are so
This scarcity of iron objects, even in the later periods,
has never been satisfactorily explained by archaeologists ;
they content themselves with a definite statement,
argued largely from the history of other ancient countries,
that iron was not in common use until about 1000 B.C.,
and they offer no satisfactory explanation concerning
the several iron articles of authentic origin that have
come to light from periods anterior to that date by
We know that throughout the historical period of
ancient Egypt, magnificent sculptures and other works
in the hardest of stones, such as diorite, basalt, and
granite, were executed with consummate skill. In the
ivth Dynasty, especially, many statues in diorite, the
most intractable of stones, were carved, and even bronze
tools were not then available, because tin had not been
introduced into Egypt by that time.
A photograph of one of the finest examples in diorite
of the ivth Dynasty is given in Fig. 40. For purposes
of comparison an illustration is also given in Fig. 41
of a splendidly chiselled statue in grey granite, belonging
to the xviiith Dynasty (b.c. 1580-1350), which was,
therefore, made about 400 years after the date sometimes
ascribed to the commencement of the common use of
iron in Egypt. No great difference in the execution of
the two works strikes the eye, and yet we are invited
to believe that two very different methods of cutting
and carving were used upon them.
It is important to remember that the fashioning of
a statue or other artistic production in stone entails
several different operations. First, there is the cutting
88 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
of the block from the rock in the quarry, which may be
done by any method of sawing, or cracking by fire, or
by breaking by means of wedges ; secondly,, there is the
Fig. 40. — Statue in Diorite. rvth Dynasty.
Specimen of Earliest Hard Stone Work.
Fig. 41. — Statue in Grey
Granite, xviiith Dynasty.
THE IRON AGE IN EGYPT. 89
roughing out done by breaking off large lumps of the
stone by hammers. Thirdly, and this is the only process
which need concern us in considering the necessity for
iron tools, there is the final careful shaping and the cutting
of detail followed by polishing.
The following is a list of some of the iron objects be-
longing to periods prior to 1000 B.C. that have been found
in Egypt :—
Iron tool from the Great Pyramid of
Khufu at Gizeh, .... rvth Dynasty, 2900 b.c.
Fragments of iron picks from the Black
Pyramid at Abusir,
Mass of iron rust from Abydos, .
Iron spear head from Nubia,
Iron sickle from beneath a sphinx of
Horemheb near Karnak, . . xviiith Dynasty, 1450 b.c.
In addition to these, there are beads of iron belonging
to prehistoric times, of which Gowland reported that
they consisted of hydrated ferric oxide of the following
composition : —
Ferric oxide, . . .78-7 per cent.
Combined water with traces
of COo and earthy matter, 21-3 „
vth Dynasty, 2700 B.C.
vith Dynasty, 2,500 b.c.
xiiith Dynasty, 1750 b.c.
100-0 per cent.
These beads consisted of iron rust, none of the original
iron having escaped oxidation. They did not consist
of iron ore, but of hydrated ferric oxide' the result of
the rusting of wrought iron, of which they were originally
made. These beads were made from thin bent plates.
It should be stated that on some of the finds in the
above list doubt is cast by certain archaeologists as to
the authenticity of the site upon which they were dis-
covered, but here again we have one expert against
90 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
another, and it would really appear that some of these
experts are prepared to swear to the provenance of, and
to accept without demur, only those objects that they
have personally unearthed.
The discoveries are indeed fragmentary, but they
certainly seem to show that the working of iron was well
understood almost from the beginning of historic times.
With regard to the early specimens mentioned above,
Gowland considered that the first specimen, found during
blasting operations within the Great Pyramid of Khufu
at Gizeh in 1837, was not a natural terrestrial product,
and suggested that it was " not altogether impossible
that it came from the Sinaitic Peninsular, and was ob-
tained there by the accidental treatment by the copper
smelters, of the rich iron ore which outcrops near the
vein of copper ore."
The fragments of iron picks from the Black Pyramid
at Abusir were found by Maspero in 1882.
The mass of iron rust from Abydos, apparently
from a wedge of iron, was found by Petrie himself, stuck
together with copper adzes of the vith Dynasty type,
at the level of floors of that age in the early temple of
The specimens enumerated are wrought iron, and they
indicate that the production of this metal and its manipu-
lation must have been well understood. Neglecting the
small prehistoric beads, and considering the next earliest
specimen, that of the plate from the Great Pyramid,
it may be said that its size and its state of finish show
indisputably that it was not amongst the first efforts
of the Egyptians in the production of iron articles, and,
therefore, the first working of iron must surely have
taken place some time previous to the ivth Dynasty.
These facts dispose also of another argument that has
THE IRON AGE IN EGYPT. 91
been put forward to the effect that the ancients, prior
to B.C. 1200, knew only of iron as a curiosity. It is un-
thinkable that they would be content to let iron remain
to them a curiosity when they were experts at getting
and working at least three other metals. On the other
hand, it is quite hkely that iron articles were scarce and
expensive, and that only comparatively few persons
were skilled in making them. It is not impossible that
in its early days iron was only used for those purposes
which no other substance could be made to serve. And
if we look at it in this light, we may conclude that almost
the sole purpose, in primitive times, which no other
material would fulfil satisfactorily, would be the chiselling
of hard stones.
If, as many archaeologists assert confidently, iron
tools were not available in Egypt prior to B.C. 1200,
no other implements but those of copper could have been
used for the superb w^orks of the rvth Dynasty, and
bronze ones probably after the vith. The idea that
secret processes for hardening the two latter metals
were known to the ancients has already been dismissed,
and further conclusive evidence will be found in the
chapter on the Metallography of Antique Metals, but
we may now briefly review^ some of the later theories
that have been put forward to explain how the ancients
were able to turn out such fine examples of the sculptor's
craft with tools of copper or bronze.
It is obvious to the metallurgist that the sculpturing
of granite and similar materials could not have been
done with copper chisels, and although bronze ones
might give slightly more satisfactory results, we are
saved the necessity of considering their possibilities, as
there is a period during w^hich hard stone was sculptured
of at least 1,000 years before bronze was known.
92 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
The copper tools that have been found would, of course,
be quite useful against limestone and other soft stones,
which were much used for sculpture and building during
Professor Flinders Petrie has stated that sawing,
cutting, and some forms of sculpturing in hard stone
were done by copper saw^s and chisels in which emery
points were embedded. In fact, he even found part of
such a saw, but as he found it in Greece, and not in
Egypt, and as it was embedded in limestone, not diorite,
the discovery is not very convincing. There is apparently
no positive evidence that saws of this kind were used
for diorite and granite.
.Another solution has been put forward in recent years.
According to this, the stone is supposed to have been
roughly shaped by suitable tapping with a stone hammer,
and afterwards the surface was ground to shape with
emery. This method could not possibly have been applied
to the cutting of sunk reliefs, or, for instance, to the
scooping out of a sarcophagus in such a stone as red
granite. These stone coffins were made from one piece
of granite or diorite, and measured approximately 1 yard
high by 1 yard wide, and 2 yards long, and were hollowed
out, leaving walls about 6 inches thick, perfectly straight,
well dressed, and square.
According to Professor Flinders Petrie, a somewhat
fantastic method was used for the carving of large
hieroglyphs. The cutting, he says, was done by copper
blades fed with emery and sawn along the outline by
hand ; the block between the cuts was broken out by
hammering and the floor of the sign was hammer-dressed
(stone hammers), and finally ground down by emery. A
photograph (Fig. 42) shows the varied forms which these
hieroglyphics assume, and the reader will no doubt
THE IRON AGE IN EGYPT. 93
agree with the author in wondering how the method
described could be appHed to the carving of a small
sunk circle or to some figure with irregularly curved
sides. The figure is a photograph of the writing on the
apex stone of black granite from a xiith Dynasty pyramid
at Dashor. The workmanship is exquisite, and the
perfection of the cutting is difficult to reproduce photo-
graphically, but the illustration shows the variations of
form that were used in the old writings, and how clearly
their lines and angles are chiselled in the hard black
Fig. 42. — Pyramid Hieroglyphics in Black Granite, xiith Dynasty.
If the emery-fed copper-blade method was used for
cutting out hieroglyphs, it would mean that the statue
or other object would need to be rolled over and turned
about so that each surface to be carved could be laid
horizontal during the cutting, to ensure that the emery
would remain in the groove. We can hardly conceive
that after a piece of sculpture had been finished by the
artist in its erect or natural position, he would relish
the risk of damage to his masterpiece that would be
incurred by this method.
If any special methods of tapping or grinding such as
94 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
these had ever been in general use, it is not unhkely that
some survival would be found in the existing customs and
crafts of the country, but there is none. In other trades
to-day we find implements of types which can be traced
back to the earliest times : the primitive plough, the bow
drill, the carpenter's adze, the needle — all these may
be seen in daily use in Egypt differing in no essential
respect from those used by the ancient Egyptians, as
shown in the mural decorations and exemplified in the
specimens in our museums.
Even now diamonds are sometimes sawn by an iron
wire held in a frame and fed with diamond dust, and
other instances might be quoted where a comparatively
soft material is used to cut through a harder one with
the aid of an abrasive agent. For instance, the mild
steel chamber of a rifle barrel is often worn away by the
constant rubbing of the cord used in cleaning the bore,
but the actual cutting must be attributed to particles
of grit which are held by the more or less greasy cord.
Each of these two processes has its own particular points.
They are both extremely slow in action, and are much
more erosive to the softer material used for conveying
the pressure (the iron wire or the cord as the case may
be) than they are to the diamond and the steel barrel.
A consideration of these processes would seem to give
support to the idea that a copper-emery process of
cutting might have been used by the first Egyptians,
but the author has proved by experiment the impossi-
bility of cutting granite or diorite by any means similar
to this. By the use of emery powder, anointed with oil
or turpentine, no measurable progress could be made
on the stone, whilst the edge of the copper blade was
rapidly worn away and rendered useless, the bottom
and sides of the groove being coated Avith particles of
THE IRON AGE IN EGYPT. 95
copper. For some of these experiments a start was
made by sawing a small groove with a steel saw, whilst
for others an attempt, devoid of satisfactory results,
was made to start a way for the copper blade by scratching
wdth a flint point, as it was thought that the latter might
have been a method employed by the ancients, and it
was quite impossible to start a passage way with the
copper tool itself.
The author strongly begs all those who think the
Egyptians used such a process of cutting, to try it.
Even with our modern copper and well prepared emery
of uniform grain-size, the results are, to say the least,
It is worthy of remark that a process of this kind
would certainly leave much copper on the sides and in
the grooves in which it had been used, and that, there-
fore, traces of green discoloration due to verdigris,
might conceivably be detected in recesses w^here the
polishing of the stone had not penetrated, but none of
the finished or unfinished sculptures in our leading
museums shows any such signs.
The reader is invited to ponder over the difficulties
of a person endeavouring to carve, m diorite, a rock of
almost steely hardness, by means of a copper blade held
in the hand and traced round the outline along with
emery grains, a cleanly cut figure of the pattern shown
in Fig. 42, with the sides and bottom perfectly flat and
It has never been stated by supporters of this method
that they do not believe it continued in use after the
use of iron became general : presumably, therefore,
they consider it did, because there would be no reason
to supersede a process that had proved capable of turning-
out the admirable results displayed by the earlier works.
96 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
There is no such survival of any of these freak pro-
cesses for the sculpturing of hard stone. On the con-
trar}^, the makers of fraudulent granite statues, who live
in Southern Egypt and execute fairly creditable copies
for the unwary and affluent tourist, and who may or may
not be able to trace back their descent from their worthy
predecessors whose masterpieces they imitate, do their
sculpturing by means of iron chisels of poor quality.
These shady businesses pass from father to son : there
is a certain amount of art and skill inherited, besides no
doubt a fair admixture of cunning, and they would be
just the directions in which to search for survivals of
old and particularly serviceable stone- working methods.
Many of the antique Egyptian statues are perfect
examples of the sculptor's art ; the hardest stones were
carved and shaped with unfailing accuracy, faultless
symmetry and definition : sharp corners with perfect
angles and knife-like edges, gracefully curved and plumb
straight lines, grooves and- serrations : deep and shallow
depressions and reliefs, with delicate, undulating contours,
or rigidly plane surfaces. To observe all these, together
with the exquisite tooling of the hieroglyphs, is to be
convinced that there is one, and only one, way of obtaining
such results, and that by the use of a chisel. Any rubbing
process would surely have robbed the angles and corners
of all sharpness.
Stone-masons' wooden mallets, exactly similar to the
kind used at the present time, have been found in quite im-
portant numbers, and the weight of the evidence tends to
indicate that stone carving w^as done just as we do it to-day.
It is not easy to understand the general reluctance
on the part of archaeologists to acknowledge the evidence
afforded by the iron articles discovered in Egypt and
attributed to the earlier dynasties, especially seeing that
THE IRON AGE IN EGYPT. 97
some of them were brought to hght by persons of emi-
nence in archaeological research, under conditions which
admit of no doubt as to their authenticity. We have, up
to about 1400 B.C., a hst of five articles going back to
the ivth Dynasty, precisely the dynasty when diorite
was much used. It is true that these finds are few in
number, but is it any more unreasonable to argue that
iron tools were in use on the evidence of several discoveries,
than it is to say that sculpturing was done by emery-
pointed blades because one tool apparently of this nature
has been found ?
The paucity of iron objects may be due to their having
perished. An eminent archaeologist has previously
characterised this statement as absurd, adding, at the
same time, that nothing is more permanent and notice-
able than iron rust. As to permanency we must all be
quite in accord, but with regard to discernability, it may
be said that in a soil permeated with chlorides like that
of Egypt, iron will rust rapidly, and the resulting rust is
likely to be extremely friable and readily disintegrated,
because of the comparatively large percentage of soluble
salts that are formed. The noticeability of iron rust will
always depend upon its surroundings, and this point
leads to the suggestion that the iron plate of the ivth
Dynasty being found in the pyramid disproves any
statement that early iron tools, if there were any, will
by this date have perished. Is it not probable, however,
that this particular piece of iron was only preserved
because it was in the exceptional position described,
and, secondly, would it have been so noticeable had it
been buried in sand or earth ? This specimen was be-
tween two stones inside the Pyramid, and was, there-
fore, in a very favourable place, not only for preservation,
but for recognition also.
98 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
It may be assumed that, instead of being buriied in
chloridic soil, it was in something of a dry air chamber.
These conditions must be regarded as exceptional ones,
tending towards preservation.
The untoward property of rusting that iron possesses
is known to all, and the merest tyro is aware that the
rate of rusting depends upon the situation. Therefore,
arguments which are perfectly sound with respect to
Europe may not apply to Egypt. Antiquities, especially
those of iron, have seldom or never been exposed to the
atmosphere during their existence, but are recovered
from the ground, where they have been buried, in positions
more or less saturated with moisture, and with corrosive
salts, for hundreds of centuries, and in Egypt it is only
articles of a very heavy nature that could survive such
The author has examined several iron objects found
in this country. Two small bronze bells of the Graeco-
Roman period, each of which had an iron striker, showed
in a clear manner the marked difference in the rate of
oxidation of the two different metals. Whilst the bronze
was in good condition, metallic, and only slightly coated
with a green crust, thus proving that the bells had not
been lying in an abnormally bad position from the point
of view of preservation, the iron strikers, which were
made of wire about J inch diameter, were completely
rusted to oxide, and were lying inside the bells in the
form of a string of powder, which fell away at the slightest
touch. Had these pieces of iron been outside, instead
of in their protected positions inside the bells, they
would have disappeared ages ago, and there would have
been no signs to-day that the bells ever had iron strikers.
In specimens of cored bronze castings, belonging to
times older than the Roman period, having iron struts,
THE IRON AGE IN EGYPT. 99
the author has always found the iron completely oxidised,
even where it passed through the bronze, which itself was
well preserved, whilst in the material of the core the
swollen and diffused mass of rust could only be detected
with much difficulty.
A striking instance of the difference in the rate of rusting
of iron came to the author's notice at Alexandria. Along
the Egyptian northern coast are certain large iron guns,
which have lain unused now for about 40 years. At one
fort, facing the sea, where they are exposed to the sea
breezes and, no doubt, on occasion, to spray, the guns
have now a coating of oxide from J inch to J inch in
thickness, w^hich is gradually falling off. In the progress
of time, these guns, if untouched, will cease to exist,
and nothing, except a richness in iron of the surrounding
sand (detectable by chemical analysis alone) will remain
to show that any iron article ever existed in the vicinity.
In contradistinction to this, there is another fort only
half a mile away, but overlooking one of the branches
of the Nile delta, where the guns are still in a remarkably
good state of preservation, and the coating of rust on
them, after 40 years, is unmeasurable.
It is highly improbable that the authentic iron specimen
(now rust) of the vith Dynasty would have been preserved
had it not been wrapped in fabric with some other articles.
This specimen can be seen in the British Museum, and
whilst it is likely that it was originally an implement
of some sort, seeing that it was wrapped with others of
copper or bronze, it now exists merely as an unshapely
mass of rust.
Excavators are too apt to expect antique iron objects
in Egypt to resemble in appearance those belonging to
the early iron age of Europe, and they probably overlook
the fact that in Egypt, if we only go as far back as the
100 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
period of the first authentic specimen — i.e., the ivth
Dynasty — we are dealing with periods anterior to that
age by about two thousand years, which means that
the objects would be nearly twice as old as the earliest
specimens found elsewhere. It does not seem extravagant
therefore to assume that the earliest iron objects of Egypt
It should not be forgotten, when speaking of the
scarceness of iron antiquities, that ancient copper and
bronze articles, especially tools, are also scarce in relation
to the vast numbers that must have been made and
used in ancient Egypt.
Another point emphasised by those holding views
against the early use of iron in Egypt is the fact that
the iron age in Europe generally did not begin before
1000 B.C. For instance, Mr. H. B. Walters, in his general
review of the bronze and iron ages, contained in the
Catalogue of Bronzes of the British Museum, says that
the date of introduction of iron working varies in different
parts of the world, but nowhere can evidence for its
appearance be got earlier than 1000 B.C. Supporters
of these views then go on to deduce that, had iron been
in common use in Eg^^pt previous to that date, it would
surely have been introduced into neighbouring countries.
In answer to this argument, it may be stated that sup-
porters of an earlier date for the iron age in Egypt do
not claim that the metal was used extensively, but
merely that it was comparatively rare and used only
for a few special purposes ; and to this it may be added
that in Egypt, even after the date of the beginning of
the iron age in Europe, as, for instance, during the ex-
tensive use of the metal in Syria (to which country many
ascribe the first use of the metal), Egyptian iron anti-
quities are still extremely scarce, and this would appear
THE IRON AGE IN EGYPT. loi
to indicate either that iron was not imported into Egypt
in great quantities, or, supposing it were, that the rapid
deterioration of the metal in Egyptian soil is a sufficient ex-
planation of the rarity of the discoveries on its ancient sites.
Mr. Walters further says — " The only argument that
can be urged on the side that iron was known and used
by the earliest peoples is that it is more perishable than
bronze. In answer to this," he continues, "it is only
necessary to point out that in the later tombs it has
been found sufficiently often and in sufficient quantities
to refute such a hypothesis."
This may be true of Greece, but with regard to Egypt
it cannot be agreed that iron has been found in later
graves in quantities sufficient to show that its rate of
deterioration cannot account for its paucity, and it must
be remembered that there are no Greek works of sculp-
ture in hard stone of a date so remote as that of the
ivth Egyptian Dynasty. So far as the author is aware,
there is no other part of the world of which the history
and the early culture demand an iron age prior to 1000
B.C. There are no w^orks in hard stone and no cored
castings (requiring iron struts) from European and
Eastern Asiatic countries of periods coeval with the
first four dynasties of Egypt. The absence of iron im-
plements and weapons on early sites in Europe, therefore,
does not affect the question with respect to Egypt.
Moreover, it is not strange that, supposing the Egyptians
did use iron a long time prior to B.C. 1000, other countries
with whom they associated did not take it up, because
the state of civilisation of the latter was not sufficiently
advanced to require and work it.
Another factor affecting the number of iron specimens
would probably be the religious objections of the Egyp-
tians to the metal. The majority of antique objects found
102 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
in Egypt are recovered from tombs, and as the religion
of the time was against iron, no articles made of it would
be placed in them, and thus the sources that yield the
bulk of our articles in copper, bronze, wood, and other
materials, do not give us iron ones.
With the exception of the prehistoric beads previously
described, no iron forms part of any jewellery : no doubt
its property of rusting quickly turned the ancients against
the use of it for such purposes, and this quite probably
formed the foundations of the religious proscription.
We find these objections carried on into Biblical times.
The iron tools first made would be extremely valuable
to sculptors, and, no doubt, they would be resharpened
time after time until they were too small for further
use, after which they would be incorporated with other
fresh metal by welding and used again.
The absence of iron fittings such as door hinges and
similar articles seems to be sufficiently explained by the
difficulties the first workers would experience in making
anything except articles of a very plain form. Especially
would this be the case if handled hammers were not
used as archaeologists affirm. Copper and bronze were
always available in abundance for such purposes, and
in addition were readily cast or worked to any required
shape. Articles of this nature could not be made from
iron until the iron workers' craft was well advanced.
Advocates of the later date for iron working in Egypt
take as a further support the fact that on the old tomb
walls, monuments, etc., there are no scenes depicting
the making of iron ; but in reply to that it is only necessary
to mention that there are also none of the making of
bronze, and none of the manufacture of copper articles.
These omissions are certainly strange, seeing that almost
every craft except those of founding and metal working
THE IRON AGE IN EGYPT. 103
is described or illustrated by reliefs or models placed in
There are certainly two reliefs in the Museum at
Florence which are said to show early iron-working.
The origin of these reliefs is, however, very questionable ;
they bear only a slight resemblance to Egyptian reliefs,
and they are absolutely undated. If they did prove to
be Egyptian, they would certainly be of a comparatively
Further, it is well known that the Egyptians had a
word in their language for iron, for it was supposed to be
the celestial metal of which the sky was made, so called
possibly because of the fact that meteorites fell from
Iron and steel articles have been identified in certain
Egyptian carvings, by their being coloured blue. It has
been said that copper was always painted red, gold
yellow, and silver white, and that iron was, therefore,
meant when weapons and other similar articles were
Prior to the ivth Dynasty the specimens of hard stone
carving are rather scarce, but there are some well executed
works in red granite, as, for instance, a column of the
iiird Dynasty. The finish of these examples does not,
however, compare with that of the work turned out in
the ivth Dynasty and later.
About the time of the ist Dynasty the sculptures in
granite, though well proportioned, lack detail, whilst
the finish of the prehistoric specimens is crude.
The gradual improvement in the working out of the
detail and in the finishing of hard stone must have been
due to the advances in tool making. The archaic
specimens, which are chiefly reliefs, show traces of
bruising and scratching as a result of the cutting away,
104 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
and have little or no fine detail that might have been
carved with chisels. It is quite likely that the bruising
was done with stone hammers and the scratching by
flints, but the latter material would be useless as chisels
because of the ease with which it fragments when struck.
The magnificent works of the ivth Dynasty and many
of those of the iiird do not exhibit these peculiarities, and,
therefore, the whole question of tools, or, to be precise,
chisels, centres on these.
To the practical man there really seem to be few
a priori reasons for refusing to credit the Egyptians with
the first use of iron tools. They were first in many
metallurgical improvements. As an instance we may
quote " cored " bronze casting. This did not come into
vogue in Greece until about B.C. 600, Avhereas in Egypt
it Avas fully understood at least as far back as B.C. 3000,
and probably earlier. The statue of Piupi is an example,
but there are much earlier ones in the form of vessels
It is worthy of notice that copper and bronze were
used in Egypt for arrow tips up to Arab times. This is
not easy to understand, unless it was because iron was
scarce, and all supplies were needed for certain special
purposes for which no other metal would serve, as these
tips could so easily have been hammered into shape
from wrought iron.
The author fully believes that iron chisels were in use
by the ivth Dynasty. Archaeologists point out that none
has been found, but that copper and bronze ones have.
It may be emphasised that the latter would be quite
useful for soft stones, such as limestone, of which enor-
mous quantities, far in excess of the quantities of diorite,
granite, and similar materials, were worked during the
whole historv of the countrv.
THE IRON AGE IN EGYPT. 105
It seems highly improbable that there were in vogue
at the same time two different methods of stone working ;
one (that of chiselling) for limestone and similar easily
worked stones, and another, the suggested one of bruising,
grinding, or sawing with copper blades, for very hard
stones. Moreover, beyond some differences due to the
texture of the stones themselves, there are no differences
in the mode of finish of the sculpture in these two classes
of stone, such as might have been expected had two
different methods of w^orking them been used. Some of
the harder and coarser stones show a slight lack of sharp-
ness in some of the finer details, but there is no difference
in the general type and treatment. Hieroglyphs were
cut with the same ease in each : the statues follow the
same postures : the same truth to life and anatomical
correctness appear in each.
A chisel for stone should possess an edge that is hard
without being brittle. The hammering of copper in-
creases the hardness, but it also renders the metal more
brittle, and the harder metal can only be of use if it
exists as a skin supported by unaltered metal. In a
fine cutting edge this combination cannot be achieved.
It has been said that, by hammering, copper can be
made as hard as mild steel, but this can only be done
at the expense of its toughness. Such a hard edge or
point would be too brittle for use against hard stone,
and it could only be produced on good copper. Even
with our own hardened steel tools, the cutting edges
require frequent sharpening, especially when used against
hard materials, and in the carving of intricate work that
might be compared with these statues of early Egypt,
many chisels of different shapes are necessary.
Two minor uses for which iron would seem to have
been of paramount necessity to the Egyptians long before
io6 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
B.C. 1000 may be mentioned. Firstly, as struts for holding
the cores when pouring bronze castings. In the preceding
chapter we have seen that such struts were actually used
although from the specimens examined it is impossible
to say exactly how far back the use of iron struts dates.
Secondly, as tools for engraving the detail on bronzes.
Some of the inlaying and other ornamental work on hard
bronzes (statuettes and statues) could not have been done
without the aid of a metal tool very much harder than
the bronze itself. Certain gravers with iron points that
may have been used for this work have been discovered.
But, unfortunately, there is no record as to what
period they belong. The fact that the blades are
fitted into bronze handles may indicate that iron was
It is strange that whilst in Syria iron was used for
the weak parts of bronze castings — that is to say, the
bronze was cast around an iron support — about B.C.
1000 (when iron was in general use in that country), we
do not find iron used similarly in Egypt. This may be
taken as a further proof, if one were needed, in support
of the scarcity of iron in Egypt, though it need not be
regarded as showing that the metal was not made such
use of as the quantity of worked iron available admitted.
It also indicates what has been previously suggested, that,
in spite of the communication between Egypt and Syria,
there was but little interchange of ideas and examples
in iron- working.
Very primitive methods of reducing iron ores are still
in use to-day in some parts of the world, and they give
us a good idea of the simple means which may have been
used by the ancient Egyptians. Mr. Grabham, the
geologist to the Sudan Government, kindly gave the
author the following particulars of a process which he
THE IRON AGE IN EGYPT. 107
recently found in use by natives of the Southern Sudan : —
" The smelting and smith work are carried on by the
same man, but as more or less separate industries. When
a native of the district desires a malot, he does not
purchase it direct in one transaction from the ironmonger,
but goes out into the bush, collects some iron ore, which
exists in abundance in many places, and brings it to the
smelter. The smelter provides the charcoal- as part of
his work, but the buyer has to stand by and help with
the bellows while the iron is smelting. This work is done
in a cone-shaped hut with the eaves reaching the ground,
and without any proper door. Inside there is a hearth
made of puddled mud with a hollow in the centre with
positions for blowers but no raised structure. On one
side of the hearth is a small basin in which some charcoal
and ore are placed as an offering to the guardian spirit.
The bottom of the pit is lined with grass, and on this is
placed the ' twyer,' and above the mouth of the pipe
is piled a mixture of charcoal and iron ore to a depth
of about a foot. Having arranged the hearth and charged
it, both the smelter and the buyer set to work and blow
the bellows. The slag runs down among the grass
below. The stalks are not burnt, but merely charred,
and remain distinct in the slag which is discarded. The
metallic iron is left as a spongy mass in front of the
' twyer,' and handed over at the end of the operation,
either as it is, or beaten into a solid mass. The smelter,
who also does the smithy work, uses the same blowers
for both operations, but the two jobs are carried out in
"It is essential for the smithy to be near a good rock
that can be used as an anvil. In this work he has a couple
of assistants, who are experts in striking with the hammer
stone. The buyer, having previously arranged for the
io8 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
provision of charcoal, comes provided with some green
sticks that are to serve as tongs in the manipulation
of the iron. He takes a large share in blowing the fire,
at which all natives seem to be experts, and the smith
looks after the heating of the iron. One of the green sticks
has been split and serves as a pair of tongs to remove the
iron to the rock anvil. The beating is done with a large
stone, which is raised above the head and brought down
with full force in both hands on to the metal. The smith
squats beside the metal, holds it in the tongs, and shows
with the aid of a pointer where the next blow is to be
" The most important use of the metal is, no doubt, for
spears and malots, but excellent axes and adzes are made,
and the iron is hard enough to take quite a good edge."
The process described is very similar to methods used
in Japan and several other parts of the world until com-
paratively recent times, which have been fully described
by Professor Gowland in his several works on the subject.
The ease with which metalhc iron can be produced
from its ores needs no comment here.
Egyptologists and others have given up the idea they
held for many years that the reduction of iron ores
needed extremely high temperatures besides elaborate
furnaces, and, therefore, could not possibly have been
in use in the earliest times. It is only the iron smelting,
giving molten metal as a product, which calls for modern
furnaces, but this process was never known in the days
of antiquity either in Egypt or elsewhere.
Even in later times it would seem from the specimens
that have been preserved, that iron was reserved for
weapons, and tools for hard work, such as sculptors' and
masons' chisels and adzes. In the Roman period in
Egypt metal articles of an intricate or fancy nature
THE IRON AGE IN EGYPT. 109
were necessarily made of bronze or brass, no doubt
partly owing to the fact that the working of iron was
not then completely mastered, and also possibly to the
comparative scarcity of this metal, though, of course,
the better appearance of bronze would alone recommend
it for some purposes.
In stone work of our own times, there is a certain
amount of roughing out done by breaking off pieces of
the block by hammering and tapping, but for the final
shaping and the dressing, chisels are a sine qua non, and
these are employed in a great variety of shapes and
sizes. It is with special consideration of the latter portion
of the sculptor's work that the criticisms of suggested
methods described in these pages are made. The criticisms
refer not to the sawing of large blocks, or to the roughing
out which may easily have been done with stone hammers
alone, but to the careful and exact cutting out of recesses,
such, for instance, as the eyes or the mouth of a statue, or
to the precise tooling of hieroglyphs carved out of the stone
with curves as free, sides as smooth and square, corners as
sharp and correct, as many art artist might shape in clay.
Many unfinished Egyptian statues, and parts of finished
ones not intended by the sculptor for public view, in all
kinds of stone, granite, diorite, limestone, and others,
show indisputably the marks or grooves left by the
chisel. A photograph of some of these marks taken from
a statue in the Cairo Museum is shown in Fig. 43.
The probable practical reasons why iron objects of
early dynastic times have not been discovered may be
recapitulated as follows : —
1. Iron was a rare metal, supplies not being abundant.
2. It was not used for decorative, rehgious, or
symbolical purposes : it was not, therefore, placed m or
used for making tombs.
no ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
3. It was essentially a useful metal, and tools, instead
of being thrown away when worn, were re-made.
4. Iron rusts and disintegrates much faster than any
other common metal.
Such is the evidence for and against the use of iron
chisels in Egypt prior to B.C. 1000. Those archaeologists
Fig. 43. — Chisel Marks on Hard Stone Statue.
who emphatically pronounce against it will probably
never change their ideas unless some fresh indications
come to light. They are obsessed with the importance
of the archaeological evidence on their side, negative in
character as it mainly is, and they do not hesitate to
credit early workers with skill and with a knowledge of
THE IRON AGE IN EGYPT. ■ in
practices that we, with the progress of five thousand
years behind us, cannot produce or apply to-day. The
practical man can only term the alternative stone-cutting
methods put forward by these experts as impossible ones.
As to the contentions expressed in this book that the
hard stone works of all the periods of Egypt, with the
exception perhaps of some crudely executed ones of pre-
historic and archaic times, were carved by means of chisels,
and that the chisels could not possibty have been bronze
or copper ones, the author believes that no further
evidence is necessary, and that the stone worker and the
metal worker of to-day will support his views.
The question of early iron may be taken a step further,
and we may ask, supposing the Egyptians did use the
metal as has been suggested, how far were they con-
versant with steel ?
The advance from wrought iron to steel is not such a
great one, nor is the conversion of the former into the
latter a difficult operation requiring other than simple
means. At the present time, much steel, under the name
of cemented or blister steel, is made by heating iron in
contact with charcoal, and this metal is used for cutlery,
tools, etc., whilst the case-hardening of iron, an analogous
process in many respects, is also in common use.
It may even be said that chisels of simple wrought
iron would only be of little more use to the Egyptians
than bronze ones against diorite and similar materials.
Is it not quite possible that the Egyptian metallurgists
discovered that by further heating the iron with charcoal,
the fuel they used for primarily reducing the hsematite,
they could transform it into a much harder modification
capable of taking a keen edge ?
According to Professor Gowland, the iron plate from
the Great Pyramid, on analysis, was found to contain
12 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
combined carbon, which tends to show that it was of a
steely nature. Two other specimens of early iron that
the author examined also proved to be steely, one of
them being mild steel of quite good quality. The latter
was a small cube, discovered amongst a collection of
objects placed in the foundation of some old building,
and every metallurgist will agree that the micrograph
of a section given in Fig. 44 proves without doubt that
it was mild steel. The other article was a wood chisel.
Even Professor Flinders Petrie admits that the case-
Fig. 44. — Photomicrograph of Cube of Mild Steel.
hardening of iron was known in Egypt before B.C. 666, for
he says that the edges of certain tools, attributed approxi-
mately to that date, and found at Thebes, were of steel.
The author hopes that sooner or later the oldest speci-
mens of iron now lying in various museums will be sub-
mitted to microscopic examination, so that the latest
developments of metallurgical science may be applied
to them. Provided a metallic core of any size remains
in a sample, it should be easy to say whether it is iron
or steel without in any way damaging the specimen.
ANCIENT EGYPTIAN TOOLS.
Although this chapter must be chiefly concerned with
metal tools and tools for metal working, it is not proposed
to exclude all reference to implements of other kinds.
The outstandmg feature of many of the first tools
is the persistence of type. In these cases, notwithstanding
the advance of civilisation during five to seven thousand
years, man has been unable to improve upon the patterns
introduced by the Egyptians who designed them, and
to-day we find tools and other implements identical in
form and in the manner of their application with those
of the early Egj^ptians.
The number of tools that have been preserved from the
earlier periods is not large, especially when we reflect
that a variety of artisans must have needed and used
them. The number bears a low ratio to the quantity of
works which must have been produced by means of such
tools, and have come down to us. The carpenter, metal
worker, jeweller, builder, and sculptor are all artisans who
flourished from the earliest times of w hich we have records,
and who would need substantial tools of metal.
There are some crafts of which we have no specimens
of the tools used, but models, sometimes of workshops,
and at others, of the tools themselves, have been found
in tombs, whilst in other industries, the forms shown in
the mural decorations of these structures are the only
guide we have as to the kinds of tools employed.
114 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
Fig. 45 — Model of Carpenter's Shop.
Fig. 46. — Native using modern Bow Drill.
ANCIENT EGYPTIAN TOOLS. 115
A photograph of a model of a carpenter's shop is given
in Fig. 45. In this there is a double -handled copper
saw, without teeth, but this omission was perhaps only
made because the specimen was merely a model. Other
saws that are in existence have serrated edges in a similar
way to our own. The man in the centre is drilling with
a bow drill made of a point of copper or bronze in a wooden
handle, which is rotated by a bow : the string of the
latter has perished. Here again the persistence of type
appears : bow drills of this kind are used extensively
in Egypt to-day, and a recent photograph of a native
using one is given in Fig. 46.
Another tool of the carpenter that has continued in
use during the whole of Egyptian history is the adze.
This most useful tool, which serves as a chisel, axe, and
hammer, is one of the modern Egyptian wood-worker's
A photograph showing it in use to-day is given in
At first the adze was made of copper or bronze, but
afterwards of iron. Specimens in both kinds of metal
have been discovered.
The first metal blades for adzes were, in shape, merely
copies of the co-existing flint ones, but as the knowledge
of metal advanced, the shape became more adapted to
the working properties of the metal, and it is said to be
possible to form an idea of the period to which an early
Egyptian adze belongs by the shape and style of the
blade, just as a celt of prehistoric Europe may be
roughly dated by its form.
The axe is an instrument that appears to have been
one of the first made of metal, and it was used for war-like,
as well as industrial, purposes. In prehistoric times the
Egyptians made them of flint, and naturally the flrst
ii6 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY,
specimens they made in metal followed the flint type.
It was merely a blade with two projections (Fig. 48), by
means of which it was tied by leather thongs into a split
stick. This implement, when used for splitting and
cutting, was not used as we use an axe to-day, but the
47. — Native using modern Adze.
handle was merely a means of holding it in position,
whilst the back of the blade was struck with a stone
or other article. This is clearly borne out both by the
form of the axe and by the fact that many of the blades
ANCIENT EGYPTIAN TOOLS.
are badly burred over at the back, where they had been
struck with some mstrument.
It may be remarked that all bronze and copper tools
(not models) are much burred at the hammered ends,
but very few at the cutting ends. This tends to show
that they must have been used against softer materials
than that of the tools themselves, because it is improbable
that almost all our specimens of antique tools would
have been abandoned or lost
by the ancients in a freshly
ground state. The author has
seen very few tools of copper
or bronze with edges showing
signs of wear sufficient in
extent to show that they were
used against hard stone.
A gradual development of the
shape of the axe head took place
as the art of metal working
advanced, and finally blades
with a socket for the handle
came in, as shown in Fig. 49.
It has usually been said that
the ancient Egyptians did not
use handled hammers prior to
Greek times. It is somewhat
amazing that the sculptors, goldsmiths, and metal
workers contrived to execute the best examples
of. their craftsmanship with no other hammers than
hard stones held in the palm of the hand. The working
of a piece of red-hot iron for instance in such a manner
would seem to us to be at once a very difficult and un-
The evidence is almost purely negative : there are no
Fig. 48.— Axe.
Ii8 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
contemporary illustrations of handled hammers in use,
nor have specimens been found. On the other hand,
there are one or two reliefs showing workmen smiting
an object with a stone or similar object held in their
To the non-archseological mind, it is also extraordinary
that the fact that handles were used on battle axes from
the most primitive times did not lead to their apphcation
Fig. 49. — Socketed Axe Head.
Again, stone masons' mallets were used of precisely the
same type as those of the present day, and specimens
of the xviiith and xixth Dynasties have been recovered.
The use of handles to these would be thought to have
found its necessary and obvious application to hammers
of stone and metal.
There is no doubt that flint chisels were in use along
with copper and bronze ones throughout the dynastic
period. The similarity in type between some of these
ANCIENT EGYPTIAN TOOLS. 119
old stone-cutting chisels and those of the present day is
Chisels were required for several purposes. They
were needed for wood-cutting, for stone-working, and for
metal- working, the first two being the chief uses. A
chisel for wood requires a blade with a longer taper to
its cutting edge, and as a consequence the latter is
sharper. Our wood chisels usually have wooden handles,
as likewise have many of the ancient Egyptian ones.
The latter must have been used more in the sense of wood-
carving, because their form is such that blows with a
hammer would merely have caused the blade to split
the handle. Also, none of the specimens of such chisels
in our museums shows any trace of having been hammered.
A chisel for stone-cutting must not have too thin a
blade, but should taper off from the stem for a short
distance only, and in this way the cutting edge is amply
supported, by the body of metal behind, against the hard
blows necessary in chiselling the stone.
Chiselling was largely supplemented by knife work.
Cutting-out knives developed from a simple form in
prehistoric times to that shown in Fig. 50 about the date
of the xviiith Dynasty and later. Two cutting edges
are clearly seen. These were doubtless used for the
cutting out of wood, leather, and similar materials.
Amongst the first means used by the ancient Egyptians
for securing the different parts of their structures in
wood work, are the copper ties described in Chapter II.
These copper strips were no doubt a development of
leather ties which were used for so many similar purposes
in the first stages of Egyptian civilisation. Another
.form is that of the clamp which was employed for fastening
the planks of a roof to the rafter, or for similarly joining
up the parts of a sarcophagus lid.
120 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
Nails of copper and bronze seem to have followed later,
probably being derived from the rivets used for metal
joints from the most primitive times, and specimens of
all sizes have been found. Iron nails came in eventually,
and examples are said to have been discovered belonging
to the xth Dynasty. It was not
until Grseco-Roman times, how-
ever, that they began to be used
at all extensively.
The student will be impressed
by the antiquated origin of many
of our own tools and implements
in every-d^y use. For instance,
the ladder was used in the xviiith
Dynasty. We find it illustrated
on a bas-relief showing its use in
connection with the siege of an
ancient city. Weighing scales
appear to have been conceived
during the early part of the
dynastic period soon after the
working of metals was under-
stood. There are many illustra-
tions of them in the decorations
of tombs, some of them, it may
be said, not showing too close an
acquaintance by the artist with
the principles of the fulcrum and
the lever. Other articles, in-
dispensable to us to-day for their
individual purposes, which were just as well known to the
Egyptian artificers, are the plumb line, bellows, blowpipe,
and scissors, the latter probably of comparatively late
periods, and a development of the cutting-out knife.
Fig. 50. — Cuttins?-out Knife.
ANCIENT EGYPTIAN TOOLS. 121
The well-formed rivet heads in the photograph (Fig.
51) might almost pass as modern productions. They
occur on a bronze door hinge, and show that our present
type of headed rivets is very ancient.
Riveting of copper and bronze articles was necessarily
a favourite means of jointing with the earliest Egyptians,
because welding and brazing of these metals were
Fig. 51. — Rivet Heads on Bronze Door Hinge.
unknown to them. Even from prehistoric times we find
the thin gold coverings fastened as handles to flint
knives by means of gold rivets, but the idea of finishing
off the ends in a properly shaped head does not seem to
have come in until the influence of the Greeks made itself
THE METALLOGRAPHY OF ANTIQUE
The application of a special branch of metallurgical
science, that of metallography, to antique metals is of
recent date ; but it provides much useful information
on the stability of different physical forms of metals
and alloys, and upon the corrosion of these substances.
Much that follows in this chapter must necessarily
chiefly interest the metallurgist, but an attempt will
be made to treat the subject in a plain manner, so that
students of both metal-working and archaeology may
follow it readily, and the expert will be at liberty to pass
over the explanatory paragraphs, and, if he does not
agree with all the author's deductions, will doubtless
draw his own conclusions from the data and the micro-
scopical evidence which will be set forth.
Metallography is the science that treats of the internal
structure of metals, and one of the chief means of investi-
gation employed is microscopical examination. By
viewing a prepared section of a metal or alloy through
a microscope much useful information may be obtained
as to its physical state, and even sometimes as to its
Antique metals, being generally very fragile, care and
patience are necessary when cutting, sawing, and filing
them in order to obtain pieces for examination. The
METALLOGRAPHY OF ANTIQUE METALS. 123
hack saw blades should be very thin ones, with fine
teeth, and plenty of time should be given to the cutting.
The specimen for examination is prepared by filing
a perfectly flat section, then rubbing the surface on two
or three grades of emery paper, commencing with the
coarsest, and subsequently polishing on a cloth wetted
with water carrying an impalpable polishing powder in
suspension stretched upon a board. It is essential that
the emery paper be laid on a perfectly flat surface, and
for this nothing suits better than a piece of plate glass.
After washing, the prepared surface is etched by a re-
agent which will gently attack the metallic surface and
bring into view, by selective corrosion, the different
phases of which the microstructure is composed. The
specimen is afterwards finally washed and dried, and is
then ready for examination.
Metal sections cannot be viewed by transmitted light,
as are substances usually submitted to microscopic
examination, therefore some means of illuminating the
surface, when moderate or high powers are used, has
to be devised. This is generally done by fixing to the
tube of the microscope, before putting on the objective,
a fitting carrying a prism and having a radial hole, through
which a strong beam of light, concentrated by a bull's
eye condenser, is passed at right angles to the tube.
The illuminant is either an electric light or a gas or
petrol mantle lamp, but an ordinary microscope oil
lamp will be found to serve quite well for visual, though
not for photographic work.
A short description of the internal crystalhne arrange-
ment of metals is necessary. The microstructure of,
e.g., cast silver, if pure or almost pure, is made up, like
that of all other metals, of crystal grains, which may
be called '"' primitive " or primary, because they are
124 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
the original ones formed in solidifying from the molten
state. The crystal grains have no regular external
geometric form, although they are built up of ultra-
microscopic crystals that do possess such form. The
etching agent merely tints the surface in a uniform
manner and brings into view the crystal boundaries.
Fig. 52 shows the appearance of the crystal grains on
a section of modern cast silver. Each crystal grain is a
separate entity, and is made up by gradual growth along
Fig. 52. — Microstructure of Cast Silver.
multitudinous branches (called crystallites) from a centre,
all spaces between the first branches being filled up by
new branches, which continue to shoot out in all directions
until the whole grain is solid. The shape of each grain
is determined by the interference that the main or primary
crystallites receive from those of neighbouring grains.
Fig. 53 shows the branched form that crystallites follow.
It is the structure of a silver-copper alloy. Copper,
with which metal we are chiefly concerned in this work,
METALLOGRAPHY OF ANTIQUE METALS. 125
also shows irregular crystal grains when the polished
surface is etched.
From the point of view of the metallographer, it is
fortunate that the copper of the ancient Egyptians was
impure. Analyses show that the principal impurities
are arsenic, iron, lead, and bismuth. The fact that
it generally contains appreciable amounts of iron and
arsenic, separately or together, is of much use in in-
In an alloy of copper and arsenic, the latter metal,
Fig. 53.— Microstructure of Silver-Copper Alloy.
up to a certain limit (about 4 per cent.), is held in a
perfect state of solution even after solidification is com-
plete, because it cannot be separately recognised micro-
scopically, nor can it be separated by mechanical means
from the copper. Such a mixture of two metals is called
a solid solution, and in solidifying from the molten state
the first portions of each crystal grain to crystallise —
that is to say, the nuclei of the primary branches or
crystallites — are richer in the metal with the higher
126 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
melting point (in this case copper) than the succeeding
layers, and this gradual process goes on until the liquid
metal of each portion solidifying last of all is rich in the
metal with the lower melting point — viz., arsenic. This
process is so gradual that there is no line of demarcation
between the layers of different grades ; they shade off
into one another.
In the case of a mixture of copper and nickel, the first
parts of the crystallites to solidify will be nickel-rich
metal possessing the higher melting point. The explana-
tion of the inequality of distribution of the second
metal in such cases is due to the fact that diffusion is an
extremely slow process as compared with crystallisa-
In specimens of such alloys, instead of the surfaces
of the grains appearing uniform in tint under the micro-
scope, each one has dark feathery markings due to the
fact that the intensity of action of the etching medium
varies with the proportion of the added metal at each
spot. These markings are technically known as " cores,"
and the reader should note that this is a very different
application of the term from that previously used in
connection with making hollow castings in metal.
As may be expected, the shaded " core " markings
usually follow the forms of the crystallites, and they
gradually shade off towards the edge of the crystal
grain. All metals that are to some extent soluble in
copper when solid, produce such markings when a
polished surface of the alloy is etched. The important
metals possessing these properties (not all to the same
extent) are, iron, arsenic, nickel, tin, and zinc. A photo-
micrograph of a modern copper-zinc alloy showing the
shaded markings, and also the boundaries of the cast
or " primitive " crystal grains, is given in Fig. 54. At
METALLOGRAPHY OF ANTIQUE METALS. 127
Fig, 54. — Microstructure of Cast Brasp.
a higher magnification (Fig. ^d) the graduated nature
of the shaded markings is clearer.
As the shadings are caused by the etching reagent.
J^ig. 55. — Microstructure of Cast Brass.
128 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
it will obviously depend upon which of the two metals
in the alloy is more rapidly attacked by the reagent
used whether the markings shade from light to dark
or vice versa.
In some cases, however, the core markings, instead
of graduating from light to dark, or vice versa, in plain
brown or black, assume colours of different tints. This
is especially the case when ammonia is used for etching.
An alloy in the physical state previously described
cannot be called homogeneous. As we have seen, some
parts hold more zinc, or arsenic, as the case may be,
than others. It is, however, possible to make it homo-
geneous — that is, provided the alloy is made of such a
mixture of the two metals that complete solid solubility
occurs. Some metals are not soluble in copper in all
proportions when solid.
Homogeneity can be brought about in the alloy by
heating it (without melting) for a length of time, which
varies according to the temperature applied. The
arsenic, zinc, or other of the soluble metals mentioned,
is thereby caused to diffuse into the copper until the
substance of the whole is uniform and homogeneous,
the etched section afterwards showing only a uniform
tint from grain to grain. Such a solid solution is con-
sidered to be in a state of perfect equilibrium, v The
foregoing helps us to understand the term " solid solution,"
because the arsenic, etc., diffuses whilst the alloy is in
a solid state, and afterwards remains uniformly distri-
buted throughout the mass indistinguishable micro-
scopically from the copper.
It will be obvious that if the cooling of the alloy,
when first cast, were made sufficiently slow, it would
have the same effect on the internal structure (by en-
abling diffusion to proceed completely), as t]je subsequent
METALLOGRAPHY OF ANTIQUE METALS, 129
heating of the soKd alloy, but this is impossible because
it is impracticable to maintain a sufficiently slow rate
The useful alloys of gold with copper and those of
gold with silver belong to the same category, as both
copper and silver form solid solutions with gold, showing
shaded markings on etched specimens produced by
casting, which disappear on thorough annealing.
The size and form of the shadowy " core " markings
in all the alloys described vary with the rate of cooling
from the liquid state. If the cooling be slow, the crystal
grains will assume large proportions, and the cored
markings will be more spread out and much more shadowy
in their graduation from dark to light upon the etched
surface. If coohng is rapid, the grain will be small, and
the shaded markings will be more distinct than in a
specimen of the same constitution cooled more slowly
and having larger crystal grains. The crystal grains
in any metal or alloy may be so small that they require
a high magnification to bring them into view, or they
may be large enough to be macroscopic. It will be obvious
that under working conditions cooling will always be
more rapid in a small mass of metal than in a large one,
the methods used being similar, and we may, therefore,
say that, in general, crystal grains are larger in large
castings than in small ones.
The reader will now understand that a pohshed section
of cast copper containing as an impurity arsenic, iron,
or similar element, soluble to some extent in the solid
copper, will, when etched, consist of crystal grains with
shadowy markings, and, when thoroughly annealed and
repolished and etched, the shadowy markings will be
found to have disappeared, the final structure being
similar to that of a pure metal — i.e., homogeneous —
130 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
nothing but lines denoting crystal boundaries being
visible on the surface of the microsection.
The metallography of bronze is rather more com-
plicated, because tin is only soluble in copper up to 16 per
cent, in the solid state, and if the tin is in excess of that,
a second constituent remains even after prolonged
annealing. As a result of ordinary casting, bronzes
containing more than 8 per cent, of tin show the presence
of the second constituent, and between 8 and 16 per cent.,
it is only as a result of annealing that homogeneous
solid solutions can be obtained. Up to a tin content
of about 8 per cent, the previous remarks concerning
arsenic -copper alloys apply fully to bronzes, and samples
of the latter containing more than that percentage of
tin are not of importance to us in this work, as the alloj^s
are only found in antique bronze statuettes and other
articles not intended for useful purposes.
Copper and silver alloys are complicated in a rather
different manner, consequent upon the fact that copper
and silver are not mutually soluble in the solid state in
all proportions. On the one hand, copper can only retain
a small percentage (about 6 per cent.) of silver in solid
solution, and silver can only retain 5 per cent, of copper
in solid solution.
Any mixture of these two metals between the limits
of these two solid solutions consists, therefore, of primary
crystallites of either the copper -rich solid solution, if
copper is in excess, or of silver -rich crystallites if silver
is in excess. In each case the crystallites are embedded
in a matrix which has the same constitution. It is known
as an eutectic, and is composed of a mechanical mixture
of the two solid solutions, appearing on the etched section
as fine alternating layers. The matrix is, therefore,
heterogeneous : its composition is constant, and the
METALLOGRAPHY OF ANTIQUE METALS, 131
temperature at which it soHdifies, which is lower than
that of the crystalHtes, is also constant. Therefore, as
this matrix solidifies round the primary crystallites
throughout the mass, there are no crystal boundaries
to be seen in an etched section, but the crystal boundaries
may be distinguished by the different orientations of
the eutectics. The alternating layers of the matrix, or
eutectic, can readily be distinguished on the prepared
surface by using moderately high magnifications.
Fig. 56. — Microstructure of Silver-Copper Alloy showing Eutectic.
X 90 d.
In each of the two cases, the quantity of matrix will
vary with the composition, because the mutual solu-
bilities are constant. The copper-silver matrix (eutectic)
may be seen in Fig. 56, at the side adjacent to the dark
coppery crystallites. The two phases comprising the
matrix are clearly visible. This photomicrograph is of
a Greek coin, and is taken at a magnification of 90
diameters. Silver containing a small amount of copper
132 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
or copper containing a little silver — that is to say, less
than the limit of solubility of the added metal in each
case — will show crystal grains on the polished surface,
because of the absence of eutectic. There may be " cores "
in such an alloy, but, as the quantity of the metal in
solution is small, they may not be ver}^ distinct.
The parts of the structure of copper-silver alloys that
are rich in copper are more deeply attacked by the
etching reagent than the silver-rich parts, assuming a
dark red, brown, or black colour, whilst the silver-rich
parts remain yellow- white. The copper-rich crystallites
will never appear with silver-rich crystallites on the same
specimen, and if either metal is present in amount
above that soluble in the other, it will be found associated
Lead and bismuth form alloys with copper of a different
class. They are practically insoluble in both copper
and bronze in the solid state, and, therefore, during
solidification they are rejected by the solidifying metal,
and are thrown out to the boundaries, where they remain
liquid until the temperature cools down to the freezing
point of lead or bismuth, as the case may be, when they
crystallise in the form of isolated globules if the quantity
is very small, or as a more or less continuous network
enveloping the crystal grains of copper (or bronze), if
they (the lead or bismuth) are present in sufficient
quantity. Lead in copper or bronze is detected micro-
scopically on the unetched surface as black globules or
streaks, but if the specimen is a much corroded one,
they may be grey in places owing to corrosion. Patches
of cuprous oxide (due to corrosion), which are a light
blue colour, may at first be mistaken for lead globules.
Copper, ancient and modern, generally contains another
impurity, cuprous oxide, which has to be taken into
METALLOGRAPHY OF ANTIQUE METALS. 133
consideration. It occurs in practically all copper to some
extent, and forms with the latter a series of true alloys
of the eutectiferous variety. The oxide is insoluble in
the solid copper and forms with it a recognised eutectic
mixture of constant composition containing 3-5 per cent,
of cuprous oxide, solidifying at a temperature, 1,063° C,
lower than that of either of the two constituents just as
happens in the case of mixtures of copper and silver.
A piece of copper containing a percentage of cuprous
oxide less than the eutectic proportion (which is neces-
sarily the case in copper for useful purposes, as much
oxide renders the metal unworkable) consists of grains
of copper with patches of eutectic. This eutectic has a
characteristic structure, and is readily observed in a
polished section without etching.
In the previous pages we have dealt only with metals
and alloys in a freshly cast condition. We may now
proceed to consider what happens to the internal arrange-
ments of such metals and alloys when they are submitted
to deformation by hammering or other work of a similar
nature applied to them in the cold state, in order to form
them into some kind of a vessel or tool.
We can readily imagine what would take place inside
an orange if it were crushed. The different sections
would be quite unrecognisable, and the bounding sur-
faces would be crushed into and through one another.
Hammering a metal has a similar effect upon the cr3^stal
grains, tending to elongate them in the directions at
right angles to the applied force : their Ijoundaries are
rendered indistinct, and any globules of lead or other
insoluble impurity such as cuprous oxide are flattened
and lengthened out. In unannealed solid solutions the
shaded " core " markings are also flattened and length-
ened. In a specimen severely hammered these core
134 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
markings and even the granular boundaries will be so
flattened, extended, and confused, as to be unresolvable
by the microscope. The etching of such a specimen
and the detection of the nature of its microstructure,
if its history is unknown, is a matter of some difficulty.
Fig. 57 shows the structure of worked modern brass.
A cold hammered metal usually also shows many
Fig. 57. — Microstructure of Modern Worked Brass.
lines, known as slip-bands, traversing the crystal grains,
sensibly parallel in form : they are produced by the
slipping of the different parts of the grain over one
another, and may proceed across the surface of a grain
in more than one direction. They are revealed by
etching (Fig. 58). A hammered alloy having " cores " does
not, as a rule, show slip-bands very distinctly, because
METALLOGRAPHY OF ANTIQUE METALS. 135
the shaded markings tend to mask them, and in an alloy
consisting of two constituents, one harder than the
other, they may not occur at all. They are seen best
in specimens of worked bronze or brass that have been
thoroughly annealed before the work. When sufficiently
cold-worked to cause a confused structure, then no
slip-bands will be visible.
Fig. 58. — ^Mic restructure of Twisted Brass showing Slip- bands.
It has been mentioned in a previous chapter that
the working of most metals and alloys in the cold state
hardens them to such an extent as to render further
manipulation impossible without cracking. It is, there-
fore, necessary to anneal them in order to bring the metal
back to its original state of softness. Annealing is the
process of heating a metal or alloy for a certain length
6 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
of time to a temperature below its melting point, in order
to soften it, or to render it perfectly homogeneous. If
the temperature is a high one, approaching the melting
point, the time need only be short, but the time becomes
longer as the temperature is lowered. The rate of cooling
after annealing is not material.
In the forming or " raising " of a vessel from a sheet
of metal several annealings are required ; in fact, the
number of annealings depends upon the amount of " work "
to be done.
We have noticed that annealing of alloys causes
equilibrium to be attained by diffusion of soluble metals,
but in worked specimens of metals or alloys in the form
of solid solutions it also brings about another change.
A recrystallisation occurs, in spite of the fact that fusion
has not taken place. The whole mass rearranges itself
internally, and a crystalline system quite different from
the original cast one is formed. The boundaries of the
latter are very irregular and jagged, and the grains
exhibit much interpenetration, besides an obvious elonga-
tion in the direction at right angles to the cooling surfaces.
In a solid solution " cores " would also be present. The
boundaries of the new or " secondary " grains, that are
induced by the " work " and the subsequent annealing,
are, on the contrary, much more regular in shape : the
boundaries take the form of straight lines, and the
grains themselves are much more regular and are very
angular. A photomicrograph of hammered, annealed
brass (copper 70 per cent., zinc 30 per cent.) is given in
Fig. 59. There is also another peculiarity which dis-
tinguishes secondary grains ; it is known as twinning.
We need not enter into a full explanation of this char-
acteristic, but it will suffice to say that it is primarily
due to the original interpenetration of the cast or primi-
METALLOGRAPHY OF ANTIQUE METALS. 137
tive grains and to pieces of one grain being separated
and embedded in another by the " work." These broken
fragments are compelled to crystallise with the grain in
which they are embedded in an arrangement different
from their own, and they take the form, on the etched
surface, of parallel bands extending wholly or partly
across the surface of the grains. These parallel twin
Fig. 59. — Worked Brass annealed at 600^ for half an hour.
markings ma}^ occur in cast metals, being due to internal
stresses brought about by unequal contraction during
solidification, but in such cases they are present in very
The secondary type of crystal grains with twin markings
have been found to occur in copper produced by electro-
lytic processes, and the author has also found it in
138 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
fragments of precipitated copper from the surface of a
bronze mirror, an interesting subject, which will be dealt
with later, but these occurrences are of minor importance,
and do not affect the question we are now about to con-
sider — viz., the uses of microscopic investigations of
structure for the detection of methods of manufacture
of antique metal objects.
The secondary grains possess a property peculiar to
themselves. With continued heating or a raising of the
temperature, they grow in size, there being no limit,
except that of the mass itself, to the dimensions that a
grain may attain, but they preserve their straight bound-
aries and angular forms. The primitive grains in a cast
metal or alloy do not possess this characteristic, except
in a very small degree, caused, no doubt, by stresses
existing within the mass, owing to differences in the rate
of cooling of different parts. A point of some interest
is that this property of growth which the crystal grains
of a worked metal possess, is permanent : it does not
lapse. The author has proved by experiment that the
grains in such a sample will continue their growth if
annealed in spite of the fact that the growth was first
initiated perhaps five or seven thousand years ago. A
worked metal is in a strained condition : these strains
are relieved by the application of heat, and the result is
the new structure of secondary crystal grains. It would
not be unreasonable to suppose that ageing alone might
relieve these strains, but from specimens examined it is
possible to say that after more than 2,000 years, the
internal strains still exist, as is demonstrated by the fact
that recrystallisation and crystal growth ensues when
the antique metal is annealed.
A photomicrograph of the same sample of brass as
that of Fig. 59 is given in Fig. 60, which was taken after
METALLOGRAPHY OF ANTIQUE METALS. 139
further annealing at a temperature approaching the
Globules of lead or cuprous oxide contained in alloys
flattened by hammering are caused to resume a globular
form by annealing, if the temperature is sufficiently
As was explained in the case of cast alloys, all " core "
markings disappear during the annealing, because the
" ^ ,%♦«" i -^ .f. ■ iLM
Fig. 60. — Microstructure of Annealed Brass after further annealing to
800^ for half an hour.
metals present as impurities or constituents (to which
the '" cores " are due), diffuse uniformly through the
- If such an alloy is heated and hammered, while hot,
the recrystallisation proceeds simultaneously and the
effects are similar, though the " core " markings will
140 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
not, as a rule, be entirely eliminated unless the heating
is sufficiently prolonged.
With alloys having a microstructure comprising crystal-
lites in a matrix of some kind, as, for instance, those of
copper and silver, the case is somewhat different. Ham-
mering or other cold working causes a breaking up,
flattening, and distortion of the different structural
phases, as explained with respect to pure metals and
solid solutions, but the subsequent annealing, although
the process of crystalline re-adjustment that ensues must
be analagous, does not bring about similar visible effects
in the microstructure. After the annealing, the crystal-
lites do not reappear on the etched surface in their original
branched form, but as rounded, isolated masses surrounded
by the eutectic matrix, the two components of which
are much more rounded and indistinct than they were
in the original cast state, provided, of course, that the
temperature of annealing is not higher than the melting
point of the eutectic, which would produce incipient
Crystallites are essentially indications of solidification
from the liquid state ; if once distorted or broken uf)
by " work," they can never be made to reappear by
annealing. Fusion alone would produce fresh ones.
The reader will have gathered from what precedes,
that it is generally possible to ascertain, from the micro-
structure of specimens of alloys here dealt with, the
original method of manufacture. Some may have been
cast ; others may have been hammered from a disc of
metal. In any antique object of metal or alloy made
by simple casting there will usually be crystallites in the
microstructure : annealing cannot destroy them, although
by causing diffusion it may remove the evidence for
their presence by the disappearance of the core markings.
METALLOGRAPHY OF ANTIQUE METALS. 141
A cast metal composed of grains, not having " core '*
markings, will show irregular grains possessing jagged
and interpenetrating boundaries, and the trained eye
readily distinguishes them from grains of the " secondary '^
A cast specimen afterwards hammered to shape when
cold, without any annealing, will show a confused struc-
ture flattened and distorted, any cores present being
crushed and lengthened. A similar specimen annealed
subsequently to the working will possess quite a different
" secondary " type of structure, as previously explained.
There now remains to be considered the microstructure
of a metal or solid solution, say a bronze containing
5 per cent, of tin, which has been worked and annealed
several times, but left finally in the state produced by
hammering the annealed structure. The regular angular
crystal grains produced by annealing, when hammered
are flattened and distorted, as are cast grains : they
also show flow lines traversing each grain that has suffered
distortion (see Fig. 58).
The work of the author has shown that all the struc-
tural characteristics of cast, worked, or annealed speci-
mens previously worked or not, as already described,
are permanent ones — that is to say, they are just as
visible to-day in antique specimens as they were when
freshly prepared thousands of years ago.
The usual method of etching specimens for micro-
scopic analysis is by immersion in a reagent having a
slightly corrosive action on the surface, such as dilute
acid, dilute ammonia, etc. Etching of modern specimens
is not difficult, requiring only a certain amount of practice
in judging when the attack has gone far enough and
promptly stopping further action by washing. If the
etching be carried too far, there is no alternative to
142 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
repolishing and etching again. Antique metals con-
taining copper, however, are often rather more difficult
to etch, and require much closer watching during the
immersion. This is chiefly due to the fact that they
invariably contain oxides and salts of the metal either
on their outward uncleaned surfaces or penetrating into
the metal itself. These oxides and salts are much more
readily acted upon by the etching medium : they quickly
go into solution, and as a consequence the polished
metallic surface may re-precipitate the copper from the
solution, so that it forms a skin on the surface. These
difficulties are best overcome by removing as much as
possible of the oxidised crust from the surfaces of the
specimen not required to be etched, or by covering them
with a layer of wax. After that the etching should be
carefully watched and the surface constantly examined :
the time required is often not longer than one minute.
As a rule, the reagents should be more diluted than those
used for ordinary use with modern alloys.
It is as well during etching occasionally to move the
specimen about in the liquid to remove any bubbles of
gas that may have formed on the surface, thus hindering
the attack. After the final washing, drying should be
carried out as quickly as possible. This is more neces-
sary with antique metals than modern ones, as the
crevices in the former are likely to hold salts which may
be brought to the surface by prolonged action of moisture.
In most cases a soft napless rag may be lightly wiped
over the polished face, or the specimen may be rinsed
A good way of viewing " cores " in solid solutions is to
throw the microscope objective slightly out of focus,
when the parts of the structure standing in relief are
emphasised, because in some instances the etching medium
METALLOGRAPHY OF ANTIQUE METALS. 143
may not produce " core " markings sufficiently dark in
tint to be clearly visible except to the expert.
Another method of developing the structure on micro
sections is the heat-tinting process. This consists of
gradually heating the specimen in air until slight oxida-
tion films form on the surface, but with antique metals
it gives very poor results.
The beginner is advised to make a point of repeating
the polishing, etching, and examination of a specimen,
because occasionally freak markings occur on the surface
due to unequal action of the etching reagent, to the
crystallisation of salts (imperfectly removed by the
washing), or to the deposition of films of metallic copper
upon the bright surface.
The prepared surface should be perfectly clean and free
from grease. It is useful to rinse in benzene or ether
before submerging in the etching fluid.
The following reagents are most suitable for the
different kinds of antique metals and alloys : —
Copper and Bronze. Ammonia.
Dilute nitric acid.
Gold. Aqua regia.
Silver and Electrum. Nitric acid.
Iron. Picric acid.
Dilute nitric acid.
After a little practice the preparation of a metal section
for microscopic examination becomes an easy matter.
The chief points are : —
1. The polished surface must be quite flat, especially
if high powers are to be used.
2. Scratches made by the file must be removed by
emery paper, each grade of which is applied in a direction
144 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
at right angles to the previous one, so that it is easy to
see that marks made by the previous paper are removed.
3. Washing to remove all grit between each stage of
the grinding and polishing.
4. Careful watching during etching to prevent it going
too far. Directly the surface shows signs of losing its
metallic brightness, it should be removed and
For further details of preparation of specimens, the
reader should refer to the books devoted to the micro-
scopical study of metals. For polishing, the author has
used a Swiss nail powder known under the name of
" Diamantine " with satisfactory results. This is not
the expensive white powder of the same name usually
employed by metallographers. The finest jeweller's
rouge also gives good results. All fine emery papers and
polishing cloths should be quite free from gritty particles.
Selvyt cloth suits admirably for polishing. A micro-
scopic examination of the polished surface should always
be made before it is etched, as much useful information
can often be obtained in this way. Variations in hardness
of the different phases comprising the microstructure
cause some to be more worn away by the polishing than
others that are harder, and thus the latter stand out
on the polished surface in slight relief. Again, certain
structural characteristics can best be observed before
etching, such, for instance, as lead in copper or bronze,
appearing dark against the body of the salmon-coloured
or yellow surrounding metal ; and cuprous oxide in
copper, the former appearing blue against the salmon-
coloured copper. In some cases the boundaries of the
crystal grains, and in others flow lines due to hammering,
more especially in antique specimens, may be clearly
observed. Further, it may be said that etching would
METALLOGRAPHY OF ANTIQUE METALS. 145
in some instances tend to mask these effects by the
production of others of more noticeable character.
As the copper articles of the earliest Egyptian periods
contain impurities, they must be regarded as alloys.
For instance, in the analysis of the copper strip (p. 68)
we find that the chief impurity is arsenic, and, therefore,
we may regard the metal as an alloy of copper and
arsenic. The other impurities which are present in
much smaller amounts, do not disturb the general arrange-
ment of the microstructure. The following is a list of
the antique alloys with which we have to deal : —
Copper with a little arsenic as main impurity,
generally also with iron.
Copper with tin less than 8 per cent, (bronze).
Copper with tin between 8 and 16 per cent, (bronze).
Copper with zinc less than 30 per cent, (brass).
Gold with silver.
Gold with copper.
All the foregoing alloys, in the mixtures that are of
practical importance and of which antique specimens
exist, form solid solutions.
Copper and silver together form solid solutions, but they
also form an eutectic mixture. Lead forms no solid solu-
tions with metals that come under our consideration.
It has already been stated that the structural and
physical effects of a long annealing at a low temperature
are similar to those produced by a higher temperature
applied for a shorter time : this rule has been considered
so true by many metallurgists that it has been considered
that annealing effects could be brought about in a metal
even at atmospheric temperatures, provided a sufficiently
long period of time were allowed. The author's investi-
gations upon antique Egyptian metals have shown,
146 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
however, that if such a process does take place it is
infinitely slow, and is quite imperceptible after about
5,000 years. For all practical purposes it may be said
that a more or less elevated temperature is required to
produce the structural alterations due to annealing —
viz., diffusion in a heterogeneous solid solution — and
recrystallisation and crystal growth in a worked metal
An antique specimen demonstrating the truth of this
is a copper dagger which is over 5,000 years old, having
been made during the ist Dynasty. It has been authori-
tatively assigned to this period by the Egyptian archaeolo-
gical authorities, and is considered by the author to have
been originally contained in a sheath of the same metal,
but the latter, being very thin, had entirely oxidised
before it was discovered.
The following is the analysis of the metal, omitting
•39 per cent
Lead, . . . . ,
Bismuth, tin, and nickel,
Copper (by difference), .
The comparative purity of the metal is worthy of
remark, particularly injurious impurities, such as lead
and bismuth, being entirely absent. A similar absence
of these impurities has been observed by the author in
most other antique copper implements intended for
The dagger had apparently been made by first casting
the metal roughly to shape, and then finishing by ham-
mering when cold, but as some parts of the section near
the edges showed a little twinning, perhaps a slight
METALLOGRAPHY OF ANTIQUE METALS. 147
amount of hot work had also been done on the object.
That it had never been systematically annealed, and
that no appreciable diffusion had occurred during its
lifetime was abundantly clear. On etching the section,
the original core markings came out with distinctness, as
shown in Fig. 61.
Close examination of the etched section showed that
recrystallisation had taken place in a somewhat peculiar
manner ; there were indications that the actual re-
crystallisation had only affected one part of the structure
— the arsenic -rich areas — which had taken the form of
attenuated crystal grains
following the meanders
of this particular phase,
thus leaving the other
parts (copper-rich) in the
form of islands of vary-
ing sizes. This can be
seen at a higher magnifi-
cation in Fig. 62.
It may be pointed out
that the metal of the
dagger in its original
cast state would not
show these clear crystal
boundaries. There is a possibility, however, that they
were induced by the very slight amount of hot
work which appears to have been done on the dagger.
The author, however, rejects this idea, because, near
the edges of the specimen, as stated, the crystal grains
bear no resemblance to the type produced on such alloys
by hot work or by annealing cold- worked samples, but
are more like the primitive " cast " type of grain. More-
over, hot work or annealing would have produced
Fig. 61. — Microstructure of Copper
Dagger showing Cores.
148 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY,
recrystallisation in the copper-rich islands. He prefers
not to venture any opinion as to whether the recrystal-
Hsation was brought about in rehef of the internal stresses
set up by the cold hammering, or whether it was induced
either by the highly crystalline properties of arsenic or
by the presence of the cuprous oxide globules.
Annealing the metal produced the results that would
be expected in a modern sample of worked copper of
the same composition, as shown in Fig. 63. The grains
assumed a regular form, the oxide migrated to the
granular boundaries, and the " cores " disappeared.
Fig. 62. — Microstructure of Copper
Dagger showing Cores.
Fig. 63. — Copper Dagger after
This micrograph was produced by etching with chromic
acid, and afterwards slightly polishing ; but, of course,
before the latter was done, it was well observed that
*' cores " were absent. The polishing has obliterated
the boundaries here and there.
Another old sample which clearly demonstrates the
persistence of the cast " cored " structure in copper is
the strip of the xiith Dynasty described in Chapter II.
METALLOGRAPHY OF ANTIQUE METALS. 149
This strip was hammered to shape from a cast rod
whilst hot, which was the ancient Egyptian's method
of preventing cracking whilst working the metal, and
at the same time ensuring softness. The heating was not,
however, prolonged, and cannot be considered as
annealing. This is apparent from the photomicrograph
(Fig. 64), which clearly shows the large cores, due to
arsenic, flattened out as they were by the hammering.
That the metal was worked hot is shown by the slight
amount of fine recrystallisation which may be detected
Fig. 64. — Microstructure of Copper
Strip, xiith Dynasty.
Fig. 65. — Copper Strip (Fig. 64)
annealed, x 90 diam.
in the light parts of the structure. In order to show how
annealing would have removed these cores, the author
heated a sample, and Fig. 65 shows the subsequent
structure. The recrystallisation is now apparent over
the whole surface, and the " dark " cores have been
dissipated. The long streaks traversing the photograph
are strings of cuprous oxide.
In the case of the copper razor (Fig. 29), it is
150 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
interesting to note that probably some hot work was done
on the metal, because there is some secondary crystal-
lisation in places. Fig. 66 shows the original structure,
and Fig. 67 the structure after annealing by the author.
-Microstructure of Copper
Razor (Fig. 29).
Fig. 67. — Microstructure of Copper
Razor (Figs. 29 and 66) annealed.
The copper knife illustrated in Fig. 68 also showed
pronounced core marking (Fig. 69), and when a piece of
the metal was annealed the cores disappeared and crystal
growth set in (Fig. 70).
Fig. 68. — Copper Knife.
The next three photomicrographs are from an adze
or axe blade, described in the previous chapter (Fig. 48).
Fig. 71 shows the original cored structure ; Fig. 72 shows
METALLOGRAPHY OF ANTIQUE METALS. 151
Fig. 69. — Microstructure of Copper
Knife. X 75 diam.
Fig. 70.— Copper Knife (Fig. 69) after
annealing. X 75 diaiu.
Fig. 71. — Microstructure of
Axe-head (Fig. 48).
Fig. 72. — Microstructure of Axe-
52 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
how the cores were flattened out near the cutting edge
which had been hammered out cold, whilst Fig. 73 shows
the homogeneous secondary microstructure which was
produced by annealing in the author's laboratory.
As a specimen of cores in an antique bronze, the
photograph given in Fig. 74 is included. This is taken
from a section of metal from the Roman or Byzantine
pot shown in Fig. 30, and described in Chapter II. The
photograph shows cores and spots of lead, and the shape
of these prove that no work has been done on the metal.
Fig. 73. — Same as Fig. 72, after
Fig. 74. — Microstructure showing Cores and.
Lead Spots in Bronze Pot (Fig, 30).
Cores in the metal of a gold ring are shown in Fig. 75.
The author's experience is that in almost every sample
of antique copper and many bronzes " cores " are present,
and this, besides showing that systematic annealing had
not been applied, also demonstrates the permanence of
the cast " cored " type of microstructure. If any diffusion
has taken place during the long period of time that has
elapsed since the articles were made it is not apparent.
METALLOGRAPHY OF ANTIQUE METALS. 153
Doubt may be expressed in some quarters that the dark
striations in some of the photomicrographs are really
" core " markings. That they are is amply indicated
by the fact that they invariably disappear after annealing,
that they are always flattened in a direction parallel to
the hammered sides, and that they follow more or less
the undulations of the surface.
It is possible to say that many of the articles were
specially cast roughly to shape and not made by shaping
Fig. 75. — Microstructure of Gold Ring showing Core Structure.
a piece of metal cut from a large mass. This is deduced
from the fact that the cores are proportionate in size
to the section of the article — that is to say, speaking
generally, in a large mass of metal the cores would be
large in area, and thus if a small piece were cut off to
make a certain object, it could be detected by the cores
being out of proportion to the mass of the object itself.
The rule cannot be considered an absolute one, but,
seeing that the methods of manufacture would be general
154 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
ones, it is useful as a guide when endeavouring to ascer-
tain by investigation of the microstructure how any
particular article was made.
It may be added that the '' cores " in an etched speci-
men of unannealed hammered alloy become more con-
spicuous and more defined, as a rule, than they were
when the metal was in its previous cast state, because
by flattening and compressing them they are rendered
denser and the shading off towards the edges is thus
made less gradual.
The permanence of the crushing effects of cold work
done upon a metal or metallic solid solution possessing
the recrystallised microstructure induced by an annealing
after previous " work " has also been proved.
A small rod of brass (Roman), which had been twisted
on its own axis when cold, showed this feature very
well. In this case the distortion of the crystal grains
was caused by twisting instead of hammering, but the
effects upon the microstructure caused by the two pro-
cesses were similar.
Fig. 76 is a photomicrograph of a section of this rod
taken near the edge at a magnification of 90 diameters.
Many of the grains will be seen to be marked with parallel
flow lines caused by the slipping of different parts of
a grain over others in order that the grain might
accommodate itself to the new form imposed upon it
by the work. The darker patches are due to corrosion.
The specimen is about 2,000 years old, and, therefore,
the strained type of microstructure appears to be quite
permanent. A piece of gilt copper strip of earlier date
also demonstrates this, as shown in the photomicrograph
given in Fig. 77, taken at a magnification of 100 diameters.
Lamellae due to hammering after annealing are clearly
METALLOGRAPHY OF ANTIQUE METALS. 155
Because annealing, as a process of manufacture, was
not applied, so far as investigations teach us, prior to
Roman times, there are no specimens that would demon-
strate the permanency of the distorted, or, to borrow a
mineralogical term, the " cataclystic " structure, of
greater age than about 2,000 years, but there is no doubt
that if such specimens of metals first annealed and then
worked cold do come to hand, they will show that this
type of microstructure is as permanent at atmospheric tem-
peratures as the " cored " structure previously dealt with.
Fig. 76. — Microstructure of Twisted
Brass. X 90 diam.
Fig. 77. — -Microstructure of Gilt
Copper Strip, x 100 diam.
In the structures of some of the early specimens of
copper and bronze articles (as, for instance, the copper
razor, Figs. 29 and 66), there is found a shght amount
of recrystallisation due to a little hot work having been
applied, and this enables us to assert that this effect
of annealing upon the microstructure of metals and
alloys has not been caused at atmospheric temperatures.
In all the specimens examined, the new or secondary
156 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
crystal grains were of a fine order, being only visible
under a moderately high magnification. It has been
stated already that proper annealing of a worked metal
or alloys causes growth of the new crystal grains, and
that such growth is proportionate to the temperature
used and the period for which it is applied. If, there-
fore, the structural changes of annealing took place at
atmospheric temperatures, it would be reasonable to
suppose that the enormous age of some of the antique
examples would have been sufficient to promote crystal
Fig. 78. — Rivet showing Fine
Crystals. X 90 diam.
Fig. 79. — Microstructure of Silver
Bead, x 90 diam.
growth until it became coarse. If any such growth does
take place at normal temperatures, its rate must be
infinitely slow, because the secondary crystal grains of
a copper rivet, thousands of years old, are still so small
to-day as to require a magnification of 90 diameters to
resolve them, as shown in Fig. 78.
As an example of a different kind of alloy, silver-coj^per
may be taken. The examination of silver beads, made
METALLOGRAPHY OF ANTIQUE METALS. 157
by the shaping of half -spheres over a suitable core,
and then joining these halves together by a process
similar to " wiping," shows that the structure is the same
as it must have been at the time of its manufacture.
The structure of such a bead at a magnification of 90
diameters is shown in Fig. 79. The small light-coloured
islands of eutectic matrix are still elongated and flattened
in a parallel formation in the direction at right angles
to that in which the hammering was done. We can tell
that annealing was not applied, because it would have
caused the copper-rich parts to ball up and the matrix
to appear on the microsection as more or less circular
films around the dark masses. The period to which this
bead can be assigned is doubtful, but it is probably of
The author has always found the original cast crystal-
lites in antique specimens of cast silver-copper alloys
in situ, surrounded by the well-known matrix, just as
they were when formed during solidification, no structural
changes having transpired during the lapse of time, as,
for instance, in the case of the head of a statuette of the
god Osiris, made of silver-copper alloy (see Fig. 80).
The very dark portions in this photograph are due to
corrosion, and will be dealt with later.
Whatever changes in microstructure take place as
a result of ageing, it is clear that, in the cases of the
alloys dealt with, these effects must be extremely small.
It has been shown that diffusion in solid solutions, re-
crystallisation, and crystal growth do not take place at
atmospheric temperatures over periods reaching to five
thousand years, at least not to such an extent as to be
noticeable under the microscope.
It has already been explained that it is generally
possible to say whether an article was produced by
158 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
raising or by simple casting, and it has been shown that
raising of copper and bronze, being dependent upon
annealing, was of comparatively late introduction,
probably Roman. The bronze ladle described in Chapter
II. (Fig. 31) may be taken as a support of this contention.
The metallographical evidence that this vessel was made
by casting is given in Fig. 81, which is a photomicro-
graph at a magnification of 100 diameters, showing that
the original crystallites formed during solidification
when cast, are still present.
80. — Microstructure of Silver
Fig. 81. — -Microstructure of Bronze
Ladle (Fig. 31). X 100 diam.
The two Roman vases described on pp. 49 and 69,
although of an external form that could have been
produced by raising, were actually cast. Another
specimen showing the same feature is the Roman or
Byzantine pot, shown in Fig. 30, with spout and handle,
which also was cast in one piece. Fig. 74 shows the
cast cored structure taken at the point where the handle
joins the body. Further notes on this vessel will be
METALLOGRAPHY OF ANTIQUE METALS. 159
found on p. 173. The ornamentation of the spout,
followmg the form of a hon's head, was, however, not
done in the moulding, but was carved by a chisel or
similar tool after casting. This is indicated by the
photomicrograph (Fig. 82), which was taken from a
longitudinal section of the spout. Traces of " cores "
may be seen in the neighbouring cast crystal grains,
whilst near the edge, which is that of the outer surface
of the spout, flow lines caused by the chiselhng are clearly
Fig. 82. — Microstructure of Ornamented
Pot showing Flowlines.
Fig. 83. — Roman Bronze Jar.
seen. The edges of the inner surface showed no such
flow markings, because no work had been done on
Microscopic examinations have proved that even such
simple articles as bronze mirrors, knives, arrow tips, chisels,
and plain ring bracelets, were, until the period of the
Roman occupation of Egypt, made by casting in moulds.
i6o ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
The Roman vessel (Fig. 83) bore strong traces in its
microstructure of having been made by raising. Etching
brought out secondary crystalhsation of a fine type, and
the form of the vessel itself rather tended to indicate
" raising " as the method of manufacture. The presence
of flow lines in the crystal grains near the edge showed
that at least a final anneaUng was not applied, but a
very careful re-etching produced " cores." The latter
could not possibly have been in existence to-day had
the vessel been hammered from a disc of metal, because
the several annealings, which would have been absolutely
necessary to prevent cracking during manufacture, would
have made the metal homogeneous. It would seem,
therefore, that the pot was at least cast roughly to shape
and finished off by hammering. The flow lines in the
grains may be a result of this, or they may possibly be
due to grinding and polishing of the surface.
The microscope has also shown that, contrary to
statements in various museum catalogues, the first
Egyptians knew nothing of brazing or welding copper
or bronze. Had such processes been known, they would
certainly have been in universal use by the date of the
Roman invasion. The general evidence in support of
this contention has been discussed in a previous chapter ;
in this one we are only concerned with that given by
The Roman pot mentioned in Chapter II. (Fig. 38)
had been repaired during manufacture, two large holes
having been filled up in the side. The method used has
been described, but the photomicrograph (Fig. 84) shows
a section through the repair.
The presence of the crystallites indicates that the added
metal was molten ; the crystallites are perfect in form,
showing that no work was done on the metal after
METALLOGRAPHY OF ANTIQUE METALS. i6i
casting. It was not, therefore, a piece of sheet metal
put in as a patch.
Fig. 85 gives a photomicrograph of the joint between
the pot itself and the new metal, unetched. It shows
the lead globules ; those on one side, that of the original
vessel, are much larger than on the other side, which is
the beginning of metal put in for the repair. The latter
would solidify at a more rapid rate than the large mass
comprising the pot did before it, thus preventing the
lead running up into larger balls. From the structural
Fig. 84. — Microstructure of Repaired
Portion of Roman Pot (Fig. 38).
Fig. 85. — Microstructure of Joint in
Repaired Pot. Unetched.
similarities of the two metals, it is probable that the
repair was done at the time of manufacture. There
was no trace whatever of brazing.
If the repair had been made by affixing a bronze plate
and brazing it into position, as it would have been if
brazing had been in general use, it would readily have
1 62 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
Occasionally microscopic examination indicates some-
thing of special interest in the metal used for a particular
antique object. For instance, a bronze statuette was
found to have been cast from scrap metal. The photo-
micrograph (Fig. 86) shows two small isolated fragments
embedded in the bronze. These are pieces of copper,
being easily distinguished as such by the appearance and
colour on the etched surface. The twin markings, which
can be seen running across one grain, indicate that they
Fig. 86. — Microstructure of Bronze showing Inclusions of Unfused
originally formed part of a piece of previously worked
copper, perhaps an old tool, before being used in the
bronze. They were not fused when the bronze was melted.
The corrosion of metals and alloys is a subject to
which metallurgists of to-day are giving much attention.
In modern experiments on corrosion the process is
frequently hastened by electrolytic or other means, in
order to obtain results within a reasonable time. We
may learn something of its effects and progress from a
METALLOGRAPHY OF ANTIQUE METALS. 163
study of antique specimens, many of which, notwith-
standing their great age, have withstood corrosion in a
Some of the early bronzes in the state in which they
are found, covered with a crusted mass of carbonates
and oxy chlorides, look most unpromising, and it is often
a cause of surprise how, after careful cleaning, an antique
object is found to be almost intact with all its original
markings and inscriptions, almost as plain to the eye
to-day as they were when first put on.
It is generally considered that all corrosion is electro-
chemical in character, electro-couples being set up
between the metal and its impurities, or between the
different constituents forming an alloy. The presence
of a liquid (often only moisture) is necessary to act as
an electrolyte. This explains something of the selective
nature of corrosion in metallic substances, but beyond
asking the reader to bear the fact in mind, it will not be
necessary to attempt any further explanation from this
Metallic corrosion is selective and intergranular in
its action, the second characteristic being really an
effect of the first. It is generally known that all metals
are not attacked to the same extent by the same cor-
rosive elements. In an alloy the relative solubilities
are to a great extent retained by the individual con-
stituent metals, providing they do not form chemical
compounds with each other. Thus, in a cast copper-
nickel alloy the copper -rich parts of the structure are
attacked more readily by an acid than the parts rich
in nickel, or, to quote a case where complete mutual
solid solubihty does not occur, in copper-silver alloys
the copper -rich parts of the structure are attacked more
readily than those parts that are rich in silver.
1 64 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
Therefore, in a metal, containing little impurity,
which is held in the intergranular boundaries, and which
may be in the form of element, intermetallic compound,
or oxide, corrosion proceeds more rapidly at these
boundaries. This is one of the reasons why the etching
of the surface of a piece of metal reveals the boundaries
of the grains, and is a consequence of the electro-chemical
nature of corrosion.
The copper dagger of the ist Dynasty (previously
described on p. 146) shows us something of the selective
nature of corrosion. Owing to the entire oxidation of
the sheath in which the dagger was originally contained,
there was a crust of green copper carbonate, etc., about
J inch thick, surrounding the metal core of the dagger
itself, which was in a surprisingly good state of preserva-
tion. In the space between the dagger and its sheath,
on each side, the corrosion had been able to proceed in
a more uniform and undisturbed manner than generally
happened with these old metal articles, and it was
possible, after removing the crust, to distinguish on the
surface of the dagger the forms of crystallites in sunk
relief due to their having corroded more rapidly than
their arsenic-rich boundaries. The specimen was, there-
fore, at once recognised as being still in its original
" cast-cored " state, and the interesting feature was
photographed. Fig. 87 is a micrograph of the external
surface ; the light markings, the shapes of which, though
somewhat irregular, are readily identified with crystallite
formation, are the depressions left by the corroded
copper-rich crystallites, but they were allowed to
remain filled up with green cupric carbonate in
order to afford some contrast for photographic
The forms of the crystallites could also be seen in relief
METALLOGRAPHY OF ANTIQUE METALS. 165
upon the pieces of copper carbonate crust removed from
This selective oxidation was also detected in the in-
terior of the metal. Near the edges of the section micro-
scopic examination showed that the crystallites had
entirely corroded, though their contours were not so
w^ell defined as the external ones. Fig. 88 is a section,
the dark parts of which are the corroded crystallites.
In this case the chief impurity held in a state of solid
solution was arsenic, and the parts of the microstructure
87.— View of Surface of Copper
Dagger, showing Selective Cor-
rosion. Light parts are depres-
sions left by corroded crystallites,
filled with cupric carbonate.
Magnified 30 diameters.
-Section showing Internal
Selective Corrosion near Surface.
Dark parts are corroded copper-
rich crystallites. Slightly etched.
10 per cent, ammonia persul-
phate. Magnified 50 diameters.
rich in this element were less readily attacked by the
corrosive elements than the copper-rich parts.
Internal corrosion of crystallites is also shown in the
photomicrograph of a copper graver (Fig. 89), the dark
parts being the corroded crystallites.
Selective corrosion is very well shown by antique
copper-silver alloys. The outer surfaces of copper-rich
1 66 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
antique objects made of alloys of these two metals, the
natural colour of which is pale yellow, generally appear
as white as silver when cleaned, and the true yellow
colour is only revealed by filing. This is due to the
removal of all the copper near the surface by corrosion.
Fig. 80 shows how this takes place ; it is a photomicro-
graph taken from the head of a statuette representing
the god Osiris, made of an alloy of silver and copper
containing gold. The section was not etched, but the
corroded copper-rich primary crystallites appear black,
Fig. 89. — Microstructure of Copper Graver showing Corrosion.
due to the removal of the copper by solution and diffusion
Incidentally, this figure shows another feature that
has been dealt with in a previous page in connection
with the polishing of specimens for examination. In
the portion of the photograph where the corrosion has
not penetrated, the pink-tinted copper-rich crystallites
appear, but this is not due so much to the fact that they
differ in colour from the more yellow matrix, but because
METALLOGRAPHY OF ANTIQUE METALS. 167
the latter, being silver-rich, is much the softer of the
two phases, and is, therefore, more worn away by the
polishing, leaving the crystallites in slight relief.
Another specimen of a similar alloy showing selective
oxidation is that of a piece of Coptic silver of poor quality.
The microstructure, unetched, is given in Fig. 90, the
corroded copper-rich crystallites near the surface ap-
pearing black, as in the previous specimen.
In order to show how a similar action occurs in alloys
Fig. 90. — ^Microstructure of Coptic Silver
showing Corrosion. (Unetched.
X 80 diam.)
Fig. 91. — ^Microstructure of
containing much silver and only a little copper, in which,
as explained before, the primary crystallites are silver-
rich, a photomicrograph (Fig. 91) is given of a section,
unetched, of a small statuette of a god, the view being
taken near the edge. In this case the primary crystallites
are a solid solution of silver with gold, and most of the
copper is held in the eutectic matrix. Thus we find the
i68 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
oxidation has taken place in the latter phase of the micro-
structure. " The dark mottled patches in the photo-
micrograph are the parts from which the copper has been
removed by corrosion near the surface of the specimen.
The corrosion of the copper-rich portions of the micro-
structure may proceed towards the interior of a specimen
to a considerable distance ; it has been found in some
silver-copper alloys to have reached a depth of a quarter
of an inch, leaving the surrounding silver-rich parts quite
Fig. 92. — Microstructure of Copper Nail showing Corrosion.
intact and perfectly metallic. When a section is polished,
this feature causes the outer edge round the unetched
section, when viewed by the eye, to display a dull greyish
appearance, whilst the inner, uncorroded metal of the
core is bright and metallic. Etching, however, rather
tends to reverse the visible effects, the inner portion,
being still coppery, becomes dark through attack by the
reagent, whilst the outer corroded ring, which contains
very little copper, is not attacked, and so appears bright
METALLOGRAPHY OF ANTIQUE METALS. 169
and metallic in contrast with the etched interior. This
may lead a beginner to think that corrosion had taken
place internally, but the microscope quickly reveals
the solid nature of the inner metal and the porous state
of the outer ring or shell.
In the case of an antique copper or bronze specimen,
which was heated soon after manufacture, and thus
possessed a homogeneous structure of crystal grains
without cores of any kind, corrosion has proceeded, not
Fig. 93. — -Microstructure. Axe Head showing Corrosion.
as a gradual eating away of the surface, layer by layer,
but by traversing the intergranular . boundaries, thus
attacking the grains from all sides. Fig. 92 shows this.
It is a photomicrograph of the structure of an xviiith
Dynasty copper nail. The crystal grains, which are of
a large order, are surrounded by dark bands where
corrosion has proceeded between them, thus showing
up the limits of the granular boundaries without etching.
Fig. 93 also shows intergranular corrosion that occurred
in a copper axe head ; the surface was not etched.
170 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
This intergranular progression also occurs when an
annealed copper or bronze alloy has been afterwards
worked and left in the strained state, but in these speci-
mens it also traverses the new surfaces of parts of grains
that have been made to slip over other parts of the grains
of which they previously formed part — that is to say, it
travels along the dividing planes between the portions
of a grain that has been distorted or broken up by the
" work." The visible effects of " work " upon the micro-
structure of an annealed metal are the flow lines which
Fig. 94. — Microstructure of Roman Bronze Jar. Un etched (Fig. 83).
cross the grains and the generally crushed state of the
crystal boundaries, all of which are brought into view
by etching the surface. The visibility of these flow lines
and crystal boundaries in an antique metal without
etching shows that corrosion has taken place along the
slip planes as well as the boundaries. The section of a
Roman jar (Fig. 83) shows the effect very well. The
photomicrograph (Fig. 94) was taken without etching
METALLOGRAPHY OF ANTIQUE METALS. 171
the surface and the many flow Hnes brought into view
by corrosion alone are unmistakable.
There are many variable factors affecting the amount
of corrosion, but the proportion of impurities present
in the metal and the composition of the latter, if an
alloy, are two of the most important. As an instance,
the ancient Egyptian hinge (Fig. 95) may be quoted.
This was originally fitted to a wooden door by two rivets,
which were found in situ in their original position. The
body of the hinge was made of poor metal, it was cast
Fig. 95. — Egyptian Hinge (Bronze).
to shape, and contained a good deal of lead, but it was
not intended to bear the same mechanical treatment as
the rivets. The ancient metal workers, therefore, made
the latter of much better material. They had to be
hammered to shape, and afterwards riveted over at
the ends. It is not improbable that they were forced
through the wood by simply being made very hot ; they
contain practically no lead.
The body of the hinge was found to be extremely
brittle : it broke readily with a hammer, but, after
172 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
thousands of years, the rivets are still very tough. The
two photomicrographs (Figs. 78 and 96) show the differ-
ences in the microstructure. The rivet possesses a very
fine, healthy, crystalline structure, but the metal of the
body is traversed by '' rivers " of corrosion, due no doubt,
firstly, to impurities, and, secondly, to the fact that the
metal was left in a cast, unannealed condition, and,
therefore, in a state less homogeneous than it might have
been. The quantity of lead present would itself tend to
make the metal brittle.
Fig. 96. — ^Microstructiire of Hinge, showing
Impurities and Corrosion, x 90 diam.
Fig. 97.— Microstructure of Bronze
Arrow Tip. x 90 diam.
The photomicrograph of a bronze arrow tip (Fig. 97)
also shows the selective action of corrosion, the black
patches being crystallites entirely oxidised, leaving the
matrix in bright metallic form. In this case the oxidised
part of the structure is in excess of the unoxidised part
(the matrix), and, therefore, the latter, although con-
tinuous, was too fragile to preserve the external contour
of the object. Such cases are not of common occurrence.
'METALLOGRAPHY OF ANTIQUE METALS. 173
The preservation of the detail and fine work upon
old bronzes is due in a great measure to the selective and
intergranular nature of corrosion. As the metal surface
is not attacked layer by layer, as might have been
supposed, the original form of the object remains largely
intact, being preserved by the metal unacted upon,
though, of course, the latter is very brittle, owing to the
porosity thus produced by the selective nature of the
The preservation of the external shape is well shown
Fig. 98. — Microstructure of Roman
Pot (Bronze). X 100 diam.
Fig. 99. — Microstructure of Bronze
Arrow Tip. x 100 diam.
by two photomicrographs reproduced above. Fig. 98
is the section (unetched) of a Roman bronze pot, taken at
right angles to the surface near the edge, with its green
It shows the clear demarcation between the green
oxidised crust and the metal (the lighter part). The
straightness of the metallic edge after some thousands
of years of corrosion, is worthy of notice. As was ex-
plained with reference to a previous photomicrograph
174 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
(Fig. 82) of this vessel, the metal itself shows flow lines
due to " working," which are brought into view by the
corrosion that has proceeded between the slip planes, of
which these lines are the indication.
In Fig. 99 the division between the oxidised crust
and the metal is even straighter and better defined.
This is the photomicrograph of a section of a bronze
arrow tip. Selective corrosion has taken place in the
metal itself (the light liaK of the photograph), but this
has not interfered with the general preservation of
the flat form of the surface, as indicated by the
The vagaries of corrosion are, however, very per-
plexing, and there is no doubt that during its course
alternating processes of oxidation and reduction ensue.
The metal still remaining as such will precipitate metal
from solutions of certain soluble salts that may be formed
around it, and other salts will, in the course of time,
undergo a change into oxides by a process which may
perhaps be looked upon as a natural reversion to the
most stable form.
Some antique copper and bronze articles have a kind
of warty appearance. The corrosion seems to have
occurred chiefly in patches, and when the scabs of patina
are removed by cleaning, holes are left. The graver
shown in Fig. 100 is an example. In the photograph
several holes can be seen on the surface. The cause of
corrosion occurring in isolated patches in this way must
lie in the nature of the surrounding material rather than
in the substance of the metal itself.
Fig. 89 is a photomicrograph of a section of the metal
through one of the holes, unetched. It shows how the
crystallites were corroded well into the mass of the
metal. For comparison a photomicrograph of a view
METALLOGRAPHY OF ANTIQUE METALS, 175
taken towards the interior of the metal is given (Fig. 101).
In this the structure was developed by etching.
The nature of the surrounding material in which an
Fig. 100. — Egyptian Graver.
article lies in the earth will have a preponderating effect
upon the nature of the salts that are formed : in some
cases it will be chiefly carbonate, in others chloride or
Fig. 101. — •Microstructure of Graver.
oxy chloride, whilst in others cuprous oxide, but never
cupric oxide (except in cases where objects have been
176 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
burnt in a fire) will predominate. Under the green car-
bonate crust generally found on old bronzes, and which
may be any thickness from a thin skin to a quarter of an
inch or more, there is often found a very regular layer
of cuprous oxide, in which the fine details of the object
appear to be preserved, and consequently the removal
of this layer means the loss of the detail, but the layer
may sometimes be removed without damage to the
A particularly interesting case is the bronze mirror,
of which a photograph is given in Chapter II., p. 71.
On the outside of the specimen there was a rather warty
crust of green salts ; under this a very thin skin of cuprous
oxide, and under the latter an unevenly distributed layer
of grey copper and tin oxychlorides.
A remarkable feature was that the thin film of cuprous
oxide had preserved a good deal of the polish that had
originally been applied to the metal surface of the mirror
when made. In the illustration an attempt has been
made to reproduce this polish as it reflected the sun's
rajs. This causes the polished parts to appear white
in the photograph. The darker patch is a portion of the
outer green crust which had not been removed. It is
strange that the polish originally possessed by the bronze
surface should be preserved in spite of the fact that the
latter has undergone a gradual conversion to oxide.
Fragments of pure precipitated copper, bright and
tough, were found amongst the green crust on this
mirror, and a description of their microstructure will
probably be of interest to metallurgists. The fragments
were very small and fragile ; the largest piece was less
than J inch square. A photograph of a fragment is given
in Fig. 102. It will be understood that to prepare a
polished surface, to etch it, and to mount a specimen
METALLOGRAPHY OF ANTIQUE METALS. 177
of this size, was not an easy matter, but a method that
the author had previously used with very small fragments
of gold was found to suit admirably. A cartridge case
was filled with a fusible alloy melting in boiling water,
and, whilst this was still molten, the copper fragment
was laid carefully on the surface and held whilst the alloy
solidified round the edges. This held the copper suffi-
ciently tight for pohshing, which had to be curtailed
Fig. 102. — Fragment of Copper
from Corrosion Product.
Ficf. 103. — Microstructure of Fragment
of Copper (Fig. 102).
somewhat, as such a thin specimen would soon be wholly
When polishing was completed a steel point was in-
serted under the edge of the specimen, and the latter
was lifted away, the embedding alloy not having a
sufficiently tenacious hold to prevent this. Afterwards,
the etching and washing were carried out in the usual
178 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
way and the specimen mounted by means of plasticine
upon a glass slip.
A photograph of the microstructure is given in Fig. 103.
The author was somewhat surprised to find twinning
and the secondary type of granular structure with grains
of a large order. Sensibly parallel lines will be seen
running across the grains, and these the author presumes
to represent the boundaries of different layers deposited
upon the grain from time to time. They may possibly
be shp-bands brought about by straining during pre-
paration of the specimen.
Analysis proved the specimen to be pure copper. It
would seem that this copper was precipitated during
corrosion from the concentrated salts of the metal by
the metallic unchanged bronze, and no doubt the same
obscure causes that produce twinning in the structure
of electrolytic copper were operating in this case also.
It has been explained that small quantities of metals
present in copper or bronze that are insoluble in these
metals when solid, will, by existing in the free state as
globules or layers, tend to set up electro-couples with
the surrounding copper-rich metal, and thus the alloys
will be liable to rapid corrosion and disintegration, but
their effect may be to draw away the corrosive effects
from the copper to themselves.
The arrow tip, of which a photomicrograph is given
in Fig. 104, contained a considerable amount of lead,
and this, of course, occurred in the microstructure of
the bronze as isolated globules, but in one-half of the
photograph they are black, whilst in the other they
appear in half-tone. The explanation of this is that
the black globules are those in the interior of the mass
still metallic and intact, but the grey ones are those near
the surface that were oxidised and appear pale blue in
METALLOGRAPHY OF ANTIQUE METALS. 179
colour on the microsection, whilst the bronze by which
they are surrounded is still bright and metallic. The
photograph is included in order to show how in such
cases the corrosion selectively attacks the lead globules
in preference to the bronze that surrounds them.
It should be remembered that antique Egyptian
coppers and bronzes generally contain varying amounts
of iron. In specimens left in a cast, '' cored," state of
microstructure, the iron being in some parts concen-
trated, the rate of corrosion must be more rapid than in
Fig. 104. — Microstructure of Bronze Arrow Tip.
others that were thoroughly annealed, and, therefore,
hold their iron diffused evenly through the mass.
For the information of archaeologists and collectors,
we may mention that the internal structural corrosion
of metals is an unfailing guide as to the authenticity
of doubtful antique copper, bronze, and silver objects.
Imitations of antiquities of all kinds have been brought
to a high pitch by unscrupulous persons, but although
external corrosion patinas may be skilfully copied, no
i8o ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
practical process can be applied to metal objects that
will reproduce the extensive internal corrosion found in
examples of genuine antique origin. It is also not im-
probable that, when the subject has been further studied,
it will be possible to state, within reasonable limits, from
the extent of the internal corrosion, the actual age of
a given article, and this may be of considerable use in
cases where it is desirable to approximately fix the
period to which the article belongs when the same is in
All antique bronze objects are brittle ; some of them
can be pounded with a hammer. In some cases this
brittleness is partly due to impurities, such as lead and
bismuth, but, as a rule, it is the result of the selective
and intergranular progression of corrosion. Copper
articles usually retain much more of their original tough-
ness than bronze ones ; they do not, as a rule, contain
metallic impurities that would increase their fragility
when new. Antique silver articles containing copper
are also brittle, owing to causes previously explained,
but silver that is almost pure, or which only contains
gold, is well preserved, except that sometimes in the
case of thin articles found in Egyptian soil an almost
complete conversion to argentic chloride has taken place.
Gold objects retain their original toughness, as the
metal is not subject to corrosion. If, however, it contains
much silver, selective attack takes place, and a crust of
silver chloride is found upon the surface.
NOTES FOR COLLECTORS OF ANTIQUE
(1) Cleaning and Preservation.
Amateur collectors and others interested in antiquities
often find themselves in need of some notes upon cleaning
and preservation of objects, A valuable bronze or other
metal curio is likely to be irretrievably ruined by in-
judicious experiments on cleaning or the application
of an unsuitable process. In the previous chapter we
have dealt with the more scientific aspects of the causes
and effects of decay, and this one will be devoted to hints
on the means of investigation, the methods of prevention
of decay, and on the processes of repair available to the
collector who has not an extensive laboratory at his
Almost the first difficulty met with by the collector
is the cleaning of bronzes. Unless they have previously
been cleaned by a dealer, these bronzes invariably have
a green or blue oxidised crust of a thickness that varies
with the age and place of inhumation of the object.
This crust, usually alluded to as a patina, is not, as is
sometimes supposed, pure verdigris (carbonate of copper),
but is of varying composition. On Egyptian bronzes
it consists largely of oxychlorides of copper, due to the
fact that Egyptian soil is rich in salt (sodium chloride).
Under the green patina there is usually found a thinner
1 82 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
coating of red oxide of copper, which is in contact with
the bronze itself. In badly oxidised objects all the metal
is found to have undergone the change to cuprous oxide
and the green patina.
The means for the removal of the patina that comes
naturally to the mind of a person still remembering the
chemistry of his school days is the use of an acid, but
it is necessary to exercise much caution in applying such
processes to metals of great age. Unlike modern metals
and alloys, all old metals are more or less porous owing
to the corrosion ; this, besides rendering them fragile, also
makes them far more susceptible to attack and dis-
integration by corrosive substances.
In some museums, especially German ones, bronzes
have been cleaned electrolytically. The object is
immersed in an electrolyte consisting of a weak solution
of potassium cyanide, a feeble electric current passed
from a battery which breaks down the chlorine com-
pounds forming the patina.
The method is applied, with suitable modifications, to
the cleaning of objects of other metals, but it is much
too elaborate for the ordinary collector's use, and indeed
the other simpler methods, over which it has no salient
advantages, will be found equally satisfactory.
In some cases where the patina is very thin and of
agreeable appearance, not masking the fine detail of the
piece, no cleaning is necessary, but it is essential that
such specimens, and indeed all metal objects, be kept
in as dry a position as possible, never being allowed in
a room where acid fumes are liberated, and not touched
with the fingers any more than is absolutely necessary.
In order to prevent, as far as possible, further corrosive
action by the atmosphere, all metal articles are usually
impregnated by immersion in molten paraffin wax, the
NOTES FOR COLLECTORS. 183
surplus wax being wiped off. The leading German
authority, Dr. F. Rathgen, however, recommends,
instead of impregnation with wax, the painting of the
outside with a preparation called Zapon, a solution of
nitrated -cellulose in amyl acetate. This gives a thoroughly
waterproof coating to the bronze, which is not too glossy
in appearance if thinly applied, but it is necessary to
give a warning against a too general use of this pre-
paration. In addition to the defect of extreme inflam-
mability, the gelatinous nitrated cotton (guncotton)
is liable in the course of time to decompose spontaneously
and to liberate free acid. This must be injurious to
antique metals, but the process of decomposition is slow,
and the Zapon method may not yet have been in use
sufficiently long for the defect to have become apparent.
An ideal substance for the impregnation of metal objects
should obviously be distinctly and permanently neutral
— that is, neither acid nor alkaline. The wax method of
impregnation is, however, in more general use, and, so
long as care is taken to keep the wax free from acid
it will be found to satisfy all requirements. It is advisable
to test the molten wax with litmus paper before use.
It is possible to remove the green crust from many
bronzes by mechanical means, and this is obviously
the method par excellence, because there is no immersion
in acid or other liquid, but it requires great care and
patience to avoid damage to the detail. The patina
flies off in small chips under suitable sharp taps from a
httle hammer, the face of which is chisel-shaped, but
has a fairly blunt edge. A little practice soon shows the
most suitable angle for the blow.
This method is a favourite one amongst curio dealers,
who are always anxious to clean their objects without
the risk to the subsequent preservation that immersion
1 84 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
in any liquid entails. Mechanical removal of the patina
leaves the object with the pleasing dull brown-red colour
of cuprous oxide, which seems as if it must be permanent.
It must be remembered, however, that cuprous oxide
is much more readily attacked by corrosive substances
than metallic copper itself, and, therefore, articles cleaned
in this way are not immune from further corrosion which
may be brought about by the carbonic acid in the air,
thus producing verdigris, or initiated by chlorides that
may be present in cracks, etc., in the metal, thus pro-
ducing oxy chlorides on the surface ; but it may be stated,
however, that the possibility of subsequent corrosion or
decay taking place, is much reduced when bronzes are
cleaned by mechanical means, provided care is taken
not to handle them with the naked fingers during mani-
pulation, and if they are impregnated with wax im-
mediately after removal of the crust.
Bronzes for mechanical cleaning must be fairly solid,
and must have a good foundation of metal. Therefore,
the specimen should be well examined to make sure
that the whole of the metal has not been oxidised.
Some bronzes cannot be cleaned mechanically, and for
these chemical or electro-chemical means must be used.
Great care has, however, to be exercised in applying
them. Any of the common acids might be used as a
solvent for the patina, but hydrochloric acid is much
the best, because it has the least action upon metalhc
copper ; in fact, the metal is generally regarded as
insoluble in this acid. It is not, as a rule, advisable to
use it stronger than a 5 per cent, aqueous solution, and
during the immersion of the bronze, the latter should
be frequently examined and brushed with a hard bristle
brush. This removes bubbles of hydrogen which cling
to the surface, and also clears away any insoluble salts,
NOTES FOR COLLECTORS. 185
earthy matter, etc., that may be impeding the further
action of the acid. It is important that the whole
article be immersed at one time.
In some cases there are patches of patina which resist
the action of the acid, and these should be removed
mechanically with a knife or small hammer after drying.
The specimen must be taken out of the acid bath as
soon as there appears to be no further action on the
patina. It is useless, and indeed very detrimental, to
keep the bronze immersed in acid for a longer period
in the hope of removing obstinate patches, which may
be quite insoluble.
It is much better to place the object in 5 per cent, or
even stronger acid, with frequent examinations and
brushings, than to leave it overnight or for da^^s in a
much weaker solution without examination.
After removal from the acid bath, the bronze has
generally a white coating of copper oxychlorides, which,
however, disappears in the further stages of the cleaning
treatment. Much of it is removed by a final brushing
after removal from the acid bath.
If the object were simply dried it would speedily
turn green again, and active corrosion would speedily
recommence. It is, therefore, necessary to remove all
traces of acid as far as possible, and this is best done
by first rinsing thoroughly in water and then boiling for
half an hour in water containing 0-5 per cent, of soda.
This turns the colour of the surface to a rather bright
red, which is unpleasant, and should be removed by
brushing. The object should next be washed in running
water for an hour or longer, and afterwards dried by
heating it for an hour at about 160° F. to expel all
moisture, and then should be impregnated with paraffin
wax by immersion in a bath of this material heated until
1 86 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
white fumes begin to rise, the superfluous wax being
afterwards allowed to drain off.
For articles of a thin nature, as, for instance, many
hollow statuettes which were cast on a core, in which
the metal exists now mainly as cuprous oxide, no method
of cleaning will be of service : immersion in acids would
disintegrate them, and they would not, as a rule, with-
stand mechanical removal of the patina. In some cases
acid treatment would give a temporary improvement
to the outer appearance, but the acid, by permeating
the porous core, could not be completely removed after-
wards, and further corrosion would be certain to ensue.
In one specimen examined, the metal was extremely
thin and much oxidised, and would certainly not have
survived until to-day had it not been supported by the
core, which it would now be a mistake to remove. For
such bronzes, the only possible treatment is to remove
such patches of patina and earth as can be easily moved
with a knife and impregnate with paraffin wax.
Care should be taken not to handle with bare fingers
specimens during cleaning, and indeed at any time
previous or subsequent to impregnation with wax. It
is advisable to wear gloves, and these also have the
desirable property of preventing the green tinted finger
nails which are the despair of amateur collectors who
do much of this work.
Immersion in ammonia after the acid process is not
recommended. It dissolves the cuprous oxide very
readily, thus often removing much of the finer detail,
and leaves the surface with a bright, metallic appearance,
which is not pleasing. In some cases its application
would quickly ruin the specimen.
Fig. 105 shows an uncleaned statuette (Grseco-Roman
period) with its thick green incrustation, whilst Fig. 106
NOTES FOR COLLECTORS.
is a photograph of another similar Greek statuette cleaned
by the hydrochloric acid process. The Egyptian bronze
Fig. 105. — Uncleaned Statuette
Fig. 106. — Cleaned Statuette,
mummy eye was also cleaned in this way (Figs. 107 and
Fig. 107. — Uncleaned Mummy
Fig. 108.— Same as 107, after
1 88 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
A part of the bronze mirror (Fig. 35) was cleaned by
chipping with a small hammer, the little chips of patina
flying away readily under sharp glancing blows, leaving a
thin oxide film with a glossy surface.
It is a great mistake to attempt to apply artificial
patinas to cleaned antique bronzes. The extensive
corrosion prevents the satisfactory application of any
of the processes used for colouring modern alloys.
Acetic acid in the form of vinegar may be used for
bronze cleaning with the addition of a few fragments
of zinc, and in this method the action is an electro -chemical
one, a voltaic cell being formed by the zinc and copper in
contact, but it has no advantage over the hydrochloric
acid process described. Neutralisation in weak soda
solution and thorough washing are equally as necessary.
Instead of vinegar, a weak solution of caustic soda
is sometimes used, and there is, therefore, in this case,
no free acid in the bath, but other compounds are formed
which are just as detrimental and must be thoroughly
removed by washing. The zinc and copper, too, must
be in actual metallic contact, which is not always easy
If the collector would give a bronze the best chance
of future preservation, he must endeavour, first, to clean
it by mechanical means under the precautions laid down
previously as to handling, and if this does not prove
satisfactory, he should apply the hydrochloric acid
method, taking care afterwards to remove all traces of
acid, and to impregnate it immediately the cleaning and
drying is finished.
A word of warning is necessary with respect to the
cleaning of bronze articles having iron attachments.
For instance, some little bells have iron wire hammers.
The latter, however, are entirely oxidised, and exist as
NOTES FOR COLLECTORS. 189
a barely coherent string of oxide. Cleaning the specimens
by any immersion process would be certain to ruin them,
and if it is found necessary to clean the bronze, the iron
might be protected by painting paraffin wax upon it before
immersing, even then, however, it should be considered
whether the removal of the bronze patina would not
loosen the iron fittings. Unless there is some important
reason for attempting cleaning, it would be better to
leave such compound objects in their uncleaned con-
dition, and simply impregnate them.
Bronze statuettes are often heavily inlaid with gold
and silver. In cleaning these objects there is a great
danger of disturbing the inlay owing to the attack of
the cleaning medium beneath the gold or silver wire.
The author has seen some superb examples of this class
of work cleaned by hydrochloric acid, but when dealing
with such articles very frequent examination is necessary
during immersion, and the object must not be left in
the liquid a moment longer than is necessary.
It is, unfortunately, sometimes found with bronzes
that have been carefully cleaned, and even some having
only a slight patina, and, therefore, not cleaned, that
some time after being placed in the collection, light green
patches of corrosion, of an efflorescent nature make their
appearance on the surface. It is not necessary to re-
capitulate all the possible causes of this, for they are
many, but it will be obvious that bronze objects that
keep well in a dry climate will probably not do so in a
damp one, or in an atmosphere charged abnormally
with carbonic acid or with the salt sea breezes of a sea-
side situation. Impregnation with wax does much to
prevent further corrosive action of this nature by filling
up holes and pores, thus preventing access of moisture
and vapours to the interior, but it does not in any way
190 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
neutralise any corrosive elements which may be present
within the metal or core, having penetrated during the
time the bronze was buried, though by preventing diffusion
it may retard the decay of the metal in a marked manner.
The only method of any service is to brush off the patina,
which is floury and non-coherent, with a fairly hard
brush, remove as much of the paraffin wax as possible
by heating the specimen, and soak the latter in water
containing 10 per cent, of soda for two or three days,
periodically examining it and afterwards brushing and
rinsing it thoroughly in water, drying and impregnating
again with wax.
Practically nothing can be done with regard to cleaning
bronzes of which the metal is wholly oxidised. These
are generally thin articles such as bowls and other
vessels, and hollow statuettes, etc., cast by the cire
perdu process upon a core. Beneath the green crust
there is a stratum of cuprous oxide with grains of metallic
bronze or copper embedded in it, and the latter give an
erroneous impression of solidarity when the surface is
filed. A microscopic examination which shows extensive
intergranular corrosion (described in Chapter V.) pene-
trating far towards the middle is sufficient evidence that
it is quite useless applying any cleaning process, as the
mass which is more or less cemented together would only
crumble away as the more soluble parts were dissolved
by the acid, or were broken down if an electrolytic pro-
cess of cleaning were applied. Articles in this state are,
however, very permanent, and impregnation will retard
further corrosion, but there is always the possibility of
further changes in the cuprous oxide, as it is so readily
converted to copper carbonate (verdigris) by the carbonic
acid in a damp atmosphere.
It is certain that many of the bronzes in our collections,
NOTES FOR COLLECTORS. 191
in spite of the great care which is taken to preserve them
in some instances, will not last to another period of time
equal to that during which they were buried in the ground,
and it may not be out of place to mention some of the
causes that have contributed to their preservation up
to the present time. Primarily, we must remember that
subterranean corrosion is very much slower than aerial
corrosion, but many of the Egyptian bronzes, which, of
course, include many of the oldest specimens in existence,
when made, were coated with plaster and coloured, in
spite of the excellent workmanship applied to the metal.
Figs. 25 and 26 are examples, in which the pittings in
the surface of the bronze, in order that the plaster should
adhere, can be seen. It represents the god Osiris, but
the face was not covered with plaster, as the eyes were
inlaid with gold. The plaster coating would probably
act as a preservative for centuries. Again, other objects
were gilt, and gold being so resistant to corrosion, it pre-
served the bronze from corrosion until the action was able
to undermine it by penetrating the various isolated cracks
and patches of ungilt parts that existed on each specimen.
According to the testimony of Plutarch, other Egyptian
bronzes were oiled, in order to produce a pleasing patina,
and this would also have a protective action for some
time. In different degrees these various coatings upon
bronze objects would act as preventives of corrosion,
but, of course, their effectiveness would be dependent
upon the care with which they were applied and to the
treatment the objects received during use. Possibly this
is one of the reasons that the greater part of the bronzes
preserved until the present time consist of statuettes and
other devotional and decorative objects, as the coatings
would obviously not be applied to copper and bronze
articles intended for useful purposes.
192 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
It does not often fall to the lot of the average collector
of Egyptian antiquities to have to clean silver articles,
but occasionally little statuettes up to three inches high
and other articles such as finger rings come to hand.
They are coated with a patina of silver chloride, which,
though normally white, has turned black by the action
of light. They may be cleaned by immersion in ammonia,
thorough washing and drying, and afterwards impreg-
nated, but if the patina is thickly crusted and warty,
especially if the object is thin, the whole metal has
probably undergone conversion to chloride, and in that
case it would be disastrous to attempt to clean it. It
should simply be relieved of any adherences of earth
that can be removed with a knife without damage to
the form of the object, and then impregnated.
As a general rule, however, most metal objects con-
taining silver, also contain copper, and thus they carry
a green patina, which causes them to be mistaken for
bronze objects, and to be submitted to the acid cleaning
process, which, of course, is the most suitable, ammonia
not being a desirable cleaning agent for old metals
containing much copper. The author knows a collector
who obtained for a shilUng or two, three statuettes,
unrecognisable in their thick green crust, which, after
cleaning, proved to be rich in silver, of excellent work-
manship, worth some pounds each.
Objects of lead are scarce, but sometimes statuettes,
removable head-dresses, intended for fitting on bronze
figures, etc., are found, as well as a number of coins of
Graeco-Roman times. They are covered with a yellowish
coating of carbonate of lead, which, however, is thin,
and the corrosion does not penetrate into the interior
of the metal. The coins especially are often wonderfully
well preserved considering the softness of the metal.
NOTES FOR COLLECTORS. 193
The objects may be cleaned in dilute sulphuric acid,
5 per cent., which converts the carbonate into sulphate,
and can be easily brushed off, or the hydrochloric
acid process as used for bronzes may be used. In either
case, neutralisation for a few minutes in water containing
J per cent, soda is necessary, followed by thorough
washing and impregnation with wax.
Antique iron objects are scarce in Egypt, but it may
be necessary at times to know of a cleaning process.
First of all, it must be said that unless the collector is
absolutely certain that there is a substantial stratum of
metal beneath the oxidised crust, he must not attempt
to remove the latter by cleaning. It is unlikely that any
Egyptian objects dating back previous to 1000 B.C. will
be sufficiently well preserved to withstand any cleaning
process. The loose scales on the outside may be removed
mechanically, and the specimen afterwards thoroughly
boiled in water, dried, and impregnated with paraffin
Iron objects of later date may possess a metal core of a
substantial size, but obviously hydrochloric acid cannot
be used, as it so readily attacks metallic iron. Probably
the best method of cleaning is that of Krefting, in which
the specimen is immersed in a 5 per cent, solution of
caustic soda in contact with zinc. Thorough washing is
afterwards necessary, then the specimen should be dried
The cleaning of gold objects is not difficult, as they
are usually well preserved. Brushing with water is, as
a rule, sufficient, or, in the case of electrum, there may
be a deposit of silver chloride, which will need ammonia
for its removal.
It is advisable to keep metal objects separate from one
another in collections, in order to prevent decay being
194 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
communicated. This is not always done in our museums,
some of which are very crowded.
With regard to artificial patinas that the ancient
Egyptians may have sought to produce upon their
bronzes, it would seem that, in view of the numbers of
statuettes that were gilt or covered with plaster, and the
absence in the alloys of intentionally added lead in the
earlier dynasties of which examples now exist, they did
not endeavour to influence the nature of the patina by
modifications of composition. They would, of course,
be well aware of the differences of colour produced by
adding various amounts of tin to copper, of silver to
gold, and of copper to silver, but whether they eventually
added lead to bronze to produce certain types of patina,
or simply to cheapen and ease the working of the metal,
there is nothing to show. There is, however, evidence
that great pains were taken in later times to produce
pleasing colour effects upon the works in bronze, and the
Egyptian statues received the admiration of the Greeks.
It is not without interest to quote the following passage
from " Plutarch's Morals " (translated by Mr. C. W.
King, M.A.), which shows that the surface of the bronze
was oiled and left exposed to the atmosphere, which
together gave a result that drew admiration from men
who were acquainted with the choicest works of art of
" The sight and artistic merit of the statues did not
so much attract the notice of the visitor, who had in all
likehhood seen many fine things of the sort elsewhere ;
but he admired the colour of the bronze, which was not
like dirt or verdigris, but shone with a dark blue dye, so
as to contribute considerably to the effect of the statues
of the admirals (for he had begun his round with them),
standing, as they did, sea like, as it were, in colour, and
NOTES FOR COLLECTORS. 195
truly men of ocean deep. Had there been then, he asked,
some mode of alloying and preparing the bronze used
b}^ the ancient artificers, like the traditional tempering of
swords, which process being lost, then bronze obtained
exemption from all warlike employments ? For it is
known that the Corinthian metal acquired the beauty
of its colour, not through art, but through accident,
when a fire consumed a house containing a little gold
and silver, but a great quantity of bronze stored up
there, all which being mixed and melted together, the
preponderating part, by reason of its largeness, originated
the name of bronze."
" What then," asked Diogenianus, " do you say has
been the cause of the peculiar colour of the bronze in
this place ? " and Theon replied — " Inasmuch as of the
greatest and most natural things that are and shall be —
namely, fire, water, earth, air — there is not one that
comes near to, or has to do with the bronze except air,
it is clear that the metal has been thus effected by this
element, and has acquired the peculiarity which it
possesses by reason of this being always about it, and
pressing upon it ; you know, surely, that this once took
place in the case of Theognis, according to the comic
poet ? But what property the air has, and what influence
it exerts in its contact with the bronze — these are two
things, Diogenianus, that you desire to learn ? " and
upon Diogenianus assenting : " So do I, my dear boy ;
therefore, if you please, let us investigate the matter
in concert ; and as a beginning — for what reason does
oil, above all other liquids, coat bronze with verdigris,
for it does not generate the verdigris simply by being
rubbed over the metal, because it is pure and clear when
applied to the surface." "By no means," replied the
young man, " does this seem to me to be the reason ;
196 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY,
but because the oil being thin, pure, and transparent,
the verdigris faUing upon it, is very perceptible, whereas
in other liquids it becomes invisible." " Well done, my
dear boy," said Theon, " but examine, if you please,
the reason that is assigned by Aristotle." " I wish to do
so," rephed he. " Aristotle, therefore asserts that
verdigris, if put upon other hquids, runs through them
and is dispersed, because they are porous and fluid,
whereas it is arrested by the solidity and density of the
oil, and remains collected in a mass. If, therefore, we
can ourselves devise some hypothesis of this kind, we
shall not be entirely at a loss for some charm or cure
against the present difficulty."
" Thus then," said he, " did we pronounce and agree,
that the air at Delphi, being dense and compact, and
receiving tension from the repercussion and resistance
of the surrounding mountains, is at the same time biting
and penetrating, as the facts about the digestion of food
clearly evince ; this air, then, by reason of its subtile
quality, enters into and cuts the bronze, and so scrapes
off verdigris in plenty, and that of an earthy nature,
which again holds suspended and compresses, because
its own density does not allow of its unlimited diffusion,
but on the contrary permits it to settle down by reason
of its abundance, and to bloom, as it were, and get
brilliancy and polish over the surface," and upon our
admitting this, the visitor said the one supposition (of
the density) was sufficient for the explanation. " The
subtile quality," said he, " would seem to contradict
the asserted density of the air ; and it is assumed without
any necessity ; for the bronze does of itself emit and
discharge the verdigris, whilst the density of the air
compresses and thickens it, and makes it visible in con-
sequence of its abundance."
NOTES FOR COLLECTORS. 197
Some of the reasoning as to the properties of oil and
verdigris may seem to us quaint, but the article makes
it clear that patinas were produced, not by immersing
the metal in acid or special chemical solutions as we
do to-da}^, but simply by applying an oil over the surface
and leaving the atmosphere to do the rest.
The collector occasionally finds it necessary to repair
bronzes. A statuette may be broken or incomplete when
obtained, or a breakage may occur during cleaning, and
although the collector himseK will probably not be in a
position to do metal working himseK, it is well that he
should know the general principles upon which it should
be done when deahng with antique specimens, as the
jeweller or artisan to whom he many entrust the job,
although perhaps perfectly skilled in his craft, may be
quite at sea when treating fragile objects of great age.
With the exception of some gold and a little copper
work, no ancient Egyptian metals and alloys retain any
of their original toughness. The majority of specimens
are absolutely brittle, and will withstand little or no
mechanical treatment. This brittleness is not wholly
due to corrosion, but in some cases, also to the original
composition of the metal, such as copper and bronze
containing bismuth, or gold containing bismuth. The
filed surface is often very misleading, giving a bright
metallic appearance even when intergranular corrosion
has permeated the mass and rendered it exceptionally
fragile. In some cases the form of the fracture gives a
better guide as to the state of the metal than the filed
surface : the specimen does not bend at all, but snaps,
198 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
leaving the fractured surface dull red in colour, or some-
times grey if much lead is present.
When about to do repairs, the chief point to remember
is, therefore, that all old Egyptian metal objects are
fragile, and should be treated with extreme care. The
methods of repair must be very cautious ones, and it is
always wise to ascertain that the workman realises the
extreme fragility of the metal notwithstanding its
apparent sound appearance externally.
The types of repair that most frequently occur are the
joining of two or more broken parts, such as a damaged
leg or arm of a statuette, or the casting and fitting of a
new part to replace one broken off or lost, in order that
the object shall have something approaching its original
For making joints, it would be obvious that brazing
is out of the question, because of the high temperature
employed, which the old metal would not resist. Soft
soldering can sometimes be used, but owing to the
oxidised state of the bronze or copper, the solder often
does not hold, and, therefore, makes a poor jointing
medium for this work. Also, the solder being of a very
different colour from the bronze, it is not easy to make it
inconspicuous. Almost any acid painted on the solder
in the joint will make it black, but it must be carefully
applied, and the specimen afterwards well washed, dried,
and impregnated with wax.
The fluxes generally used for soldering bronze and
brass are zinc chloride and borax. For antique objects,
probably the last-named is the least objectionable.
The repairing of small statuettes under about 6 inches
high requires more skill and care than work on larger
specimens, because an error in the jointing of even so
little as rh inch is sufficient to disturb the anatomical
NOTES FOR COLLECTORS. 199
correctness of the modelling, and many of these figures,
although so small, are exquisitely proportioned. Thus a
layer of solder intervening the fractured surfaces of a
limb would be sufficient to make the repaired leg too
long unless the figure were a rather large one. On the
whole, the soldering of joints is, however, not recom-
mended for several reasons. Firstly, as explained pre-
viously, soft solder adheres very imperfectly to old
bronze and copper ; secondly, soldering entails the use
of fluxes which are of a chloridic or acid nature, and
are, therefore, liable to initiate further corrosion of the
specimen ; and, thirdly, soldering is not at all easy to do
neatly and to render invisible afterwards.
When the fracture is a recent one, the two broken
surfaces can generally be fitted together quite closely
and correctly, and if a very thin cementing medium be
used the joint is barely perceptible. Very thin mediums,
however, have not the advantage of great rigidity, and
the repaired specimen would not stand much handling
afterwards. In many cases, the jointing of such fractures
by a solution of shellac in methylated spirit will suffice,
or with seccotine, although the latter is not waterproof.
As a rule, broken articles should be tlioroughly cleaned
before repairs are taken in hand, and to insure that
fractured surfaces will afterwards fit together correctly
they should be protected from attack by the acid, and
for this a little molten wax can be brushed over the
Whenever possible, it is advisable to give additional
strength to the joint by fixing a central pin to connect
the two parts, a hole being carefully drilled in each piece
and the pin cemented or wedged in.
The fragility of antique bronzes renders attempts at
absolutely perfect jointing unnecessary. For instance,
200 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
in the case of a hollow statuette broken into two parts,
the filling up of each with plaster (removing any core
present), and a substantial central metal pin connecting
the two, would do, the crevice round the joint being filled
in afterwards with a cement of similar colour to the
Alloys of low melting point, such as those that melt
in boiling w^ater, would seem to possess advantages for
filling up broken and damaged bronzes, but they should
not be used, as they invariably contain bismuth, which
causes the alloy to expand during solidification, and
this would probably crack or break the old bronze.
The author has successfully used a dental amalgam of
mercury with 25 per cent, cadmium for such work ;
it melts in boiling water, is plastic when warm, and sets
very hard afterwards.
A bronze of superb finish or much interest is often
marred by a deficiency of some part or limb that has
been broken off and lost ; the time and money spent
in fixing another one is well spent, but the operation is
one requiring some care and skill, more especially because
an intimate acquaintance with antique works of art
is sometimes necessary in order to insure that the new
part shall be. correct in form. It should, of course, be
remembered that with collectors the object of making
such replacements is not to deceive the beholder, but
merely to render the specimens as complete as they were
in their original state, and it is, therefore, necessary that
the added parts should be similar to the originals both
in colour and in the state of the surface of the new metal.
In such a repair, the first point to decide is what metal
to use for the new part. The answer is — an alloy of a
composition approximating to that of the original. For
instance, for a copper object use copper, and for bronze
NOTES FOR COLLECTORS.
a copper-tin alloy, though for the latter copper would
do also, and for brass a copper-zinc alloy. It is not
desirable to use brass for an addition to a bronze object,
as the patina of the latter cannot be so readily imitated
upon brass as on bronze. The new part should be cast
with a rough surface similar in appearance to that of the
original, so that when coloured there will not be a great
difference in outer appearances. This is easily arranged
for in moulding.
It will generally be necessary to file off the broken
surface of the fracture, so that the joint will be a flat
one. Before jointing, the new part should be coloured
to match the original as nearly as possible, and below
is a list of processes which are available for producing
various colours on different alloys : —
MODERN PATINA PRODUCING PROCESSES.
Method A. — Olive green.
Red ammonium sulphide, . . .5 fluid ozs.
Water, 1 gallon.
Warm and immerse the object.
Method B. — -Green.
Cream of tartar,
Nitrate of copper,
Method C— Black.
Dissolve as much copper as possible in strong nitric acid. Dip
the article, and then heat strongly but gradually ; allow to
Colouring Broxze and Copper.
Method D. — Brown to black.
Liver of sulphur, . . . . . | oz.
Water, 1 gallon.
The length of time of immersion or heating the solution affects
the depth of the colour.
202 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
Method £.— Black.
As method C for brass.
Note. — Metals for colouring must always be cleaned and freed from
grease, etc., by dipping in a solution of 4 ozs. potassium cyanide in a gallon
of water, then washed before immersion in the colouring bath. Specimens
must not be touched with the bare fingers. If the first attempt is not
satisfactory, dip again.
Fig. 109. — Repaired Statuette of Isis.
A repair was made to the statuette of the goddess
Isis shown in Fig. 109. When received the figure was
minus feet and legs, the bottom portion having been
broken off from the knees and lost. Luckily a spare
NOTES FOR COLLECTORS.
pair of feet that had belonged to a similar statuette
were at hand, and it was, therefore, only necessary to
make a casting of the remaining portion of the legs.
This was done in bronze, afterwards blackened to match
the original by the use of Method C. The joint was
Fig. 110. — Repaired Casting.
made with soft solder and afterwards blackened by
painting with nitric acid in which much copper had
Fig. 110 shows the result of another repair, one which
called for rather more care and trouble than the average.
204 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
In this case part of the beak of the Ibis was missing
from the part marked X. The bronze was much corroded,
but the green patina was thin, and so no cleaning process
was appHed. A casting of the end part of the beak was
necessary, but it was doubtful whether the metal of the
original part was sufficiently strong to support the weight
Fig. 111. — Broken Lion Headed God.
of the new part if cast solid in bronze. The latter was
therefore, cast with a rough surface in aluminium with
a central projection to penetrate into the hollow head,
and afterwards a coating of copper was electrolytically
deposited upon it. The two joining surfaces were filed
NOTES FOR COLLECTORS.
flat and the head was filled with plaster of Paris, to secure
the projection attached to the beak. Afterwards the
added part was painted with ammonia, then lightly
with a mixture of methylated spirit, copper carbonate,
and shellac, and the result was so satisfactory that the
joint was quite hidden, and the new part could not be
distinguished from the old.
Another example of a repair made by the author is
the small figure of the hon-headed god shown in
Fig. 111. When received this object had ahead}^ been
cleaned, but had been broken, one
leg being broken off in two parts,
whilst the other leg had been broken
off some time before and imperfectly
soldered on again. The photograph
shows it in this state. Fortunately,
the two fractures were fresh ones,
and the surfaces were preserved, thus
fitting together accurately, but the
lower part (foot) could not be used
again. Therefore, a new foot had to
be made, and this was done by filing
one to shape out of a piece of antique
bronze and fitting to the leg piece.
The method of making the joints was
as follows : — A hole was drilled in each piece, and also in
the body, and an iron pin was fitted so as to support each
joint centraUy. The leg portion containing the two pins
and the new foot are shown in Fig. 112. The cementing
medium was a mixture of seccotine and copper carbonate,
which makes a very useful green cement for such purposes
where the green colour is suitable. In other cases, w^here
objects are black or red in colour, lamp black or Venetian
red dry paint may be substituted for the copper
Fig. 112. — Prepared Foot
and Pinned Joints.
2o6 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
carbonate. A mixture of seccotine with one of these dry
substances sets very hard, but, of course, is not water-
proof. As a rule, this is not a drawback, but if a water-
proof medium is required, then a thin solution of shellac
in methylated spirit can be used with one of the dry
When the new foot was shaped it had, of course, its
metallic lustre, and it was necessary to give it a patina
to resemble as closely as possible the original body.
This was done by painting with a 10 per cent, solution
of liver of sulphur, which produced a black patina, and
afterwards a little copper carbonate was dusted over
the joints, in order to hide them, and the surplus wiped
off. This was quite in harmony with the original, which
was of black appearance relieved with small patches of
The previously existing joint made with solder was
not interfered with, but the crevice was filled up with
dark green cement, and thus rendered almost invisible.
The result of the repair is shown in Fig. 113. It is inter-
esting to observe that, although a fresh foot has been
added, the whole object is still antique.
Although it is desirable to apply imitation antique
patinas on parts added to bronzes, this should not be
extended to metal stands and wire frames used to support
objects in collections. It is done in the Louvre, Paris,
but is misleading, because it causes the visitor to think
the support is part of the original object.
Sometimes a collector desires to know whether a metal
object is bronze or copper. This can generally be in-
ferred from the colour, and a filed part of the object
(an unimportant position being, of course, selected) should
be compared with the colour of a freshly filed piece of
known copper. If, however, the tin content is not large
NOTES FOR COLLECTORS.
or the old metal is much corroded, this means of ascer-
taining is not applicable, and in such cases a fragment
should be broken from the object, the oxidised part
filed away, and dissolved in a 25 per cent, solution of
nitric acid, carefully warming, if necessary, to complete
Fig. 113. — Repaired Lion-Headed God.
soliftion. If tin is present, it will be left as a white (some-
times greyish) insoluble precipitate at the bottom of the
vessel. As tin and antimony are the only two metals
likely to leave this precipitate, and antimony is not
208 ANCIENT EGYPTIAN METALLURGY.
present in Egyptian bronzes to any appreciable extent,
the test gives a fair guide as to whether a sample is
bronze or copper. Sometimes, however, the precipitate
may appear grey if gold is present, because nitric acid
leaves the latter as a black powder. It may be said that,
as a rule, with copper containing more than 2 per cent,
of tin, the latter is present as an intentional ingredient,
and not as an impurity. This proportion of tin leaves
a very noticeable precipitate after attack by nitric acid
if a half -gramme sample is taken. As a rule, however,
real antique bronzes always contain more than 5 per
cent, of tin, and antique copper generally under 1 pet
Adze, 94, 115.
Ahmose I., 10.
Alloys, Types of antique, 145.
Amon, Priests of, 12.
Analysis of copper dagger, 146.
■ • strip, 68.
— iron beads, 89.
Annealing, 18, 64, 66, 68, 129, 135,
Effect of, 140, 148, 149, 150,
Antique alloys, 145.
Arabian period, 24.
Arabs, 19, 20.
Archaic period, 24.
Arrow-head mould, 55.
Arrow points, 58.
tip. Bronze, 172, 178.
tips, 60, 104.
Arsenic in copper, 66, 80, 125.
Asia, Gold from, 25.
Art of, 20.
Athens Museum, 58.
Axe, 115, 117, 118.
Microstructure of, 151.
Battle axes, 59, 118.
Beads, 32, 85, 89.
Bells, Bronze, 98.
Bismuth in copper, 78.
Black pyramid, 90.
Brass, 32, 126, 127.
Brazier of Khety, 77.
Brazing, 62, 69, 74, 121, 160.
British Museum, 57, 58, 74, 77, 99,
Brittleness of objects, 197.
Bronze, 7, 21, 29.
arrow tip, 172, 178.
• bells, 98.
• chisels, 104.
— — Corrosion of, 65.
Detection of, 206.
Gold in, 82.
— handles, 106.
— — • Hardening of, 35, 78.
hinges, 102, 121.
• industry, 34.
— jar, 159, 170.
Lead in, 30, 76.
Metallography of, 130.
mirror, 71, 176.
Bronze, Modern, 77,
pot, 152, 173.
■ specimens. Dating of, 82, 83.
vase, 49, 50, 64.
Welding of, 62.
Eudge, Dr. E. A., 55, 86.
Byzantine style, 19.
Cairo Museum, 12, 14, 15, 20, 31.
36, 55, 81, 109.
Carvings in stone, 103.
Casting runners, 45.
• Struts for, 39, 106.
Castings, Cored, 35.
Chasing, 72, 73, 76.
Chisel marks on stone, 109, 110.
Chisels, 15, 54, 104, 111.
for stone, 119.
for wood, 119.
Use of, 104, 119.
— — • Wrought-iron, 111.
Christianity, Introduction of, 18,
Cire perdu process, 37, 42.
Coffins, Lead, 31.
Coinage, 16, 18,
Collapsible stand, 72, 73.
Coloured plaster, 58.
Colouring baths, 201.
Colours used for metals, 103.
Cooling, Effect of rate of, 129.
Copper, 6, 11, 18, 24, 26, 27, 30.
■ Arsenic in, 80, 125.
• axes, 59.
■ Bismuth in, 78, 132.
Copper, Corrosion of, 65.
dagger, 59, 146, 164.
Analysis of, 34, 146.
Hardening of, 35, 78, 105.
■ hinges, 102.
Impurities in, 125.
Iron in, 80.
lead alloys, 132.
nail, 60, 120, 168,
nickel alloy, 126,
ores, 27, 28.
razor, 61, 150,
Riveting of, 36.
silver alloys, 130, 131.
strip, 65, 66, 119, 145, 149.
Analysis of, 68.
Welding of, 62,
— — - -zinc alloy, 126.
Coptic metal work, 19.
Core markings, 147, 148,
Cored castings, 35.
— — in Egypt, 104.
in Greece, 104.
Cores, 38, 54, 126, 132, 164.
Corrosion, 65, 162.
Crucible, Egyptian, 81.
Crystal iDOundaries, 136.
grains, 123, 129, 156.
Crystallites, 124, 131.
Cuprous oxide, 132.
Curelly, Mr. C. T,, 81.
Cutting edge, Microstructure of, 151
Dagger, 34, 59, 146, 164.
copper. Analysis of, 34, 146,
Dates of Dynasties, 24.
Dating of bronze specimens, 82, 83.
of periods, 22.
Deformation by hammering, 133.
Diorite, 104, 109.
statue, 87, 88.
Dynasties, Dates of, 24.
Egyptian history. Outline of, 1
Electro-chemical cleaning, 184.
Electrum, 26, 36.
Empire Period, 10.
Enamel, 36, 84.
Engraving, 72, 73, 76.
Equilibrium in alloys, 128.
Eyes, 36, 58, 187.
First Intermediate Period, 24.
Flaws, Repairing of, 75.
Flint chisels, 118.
Florence Museum, 103.
Flow lines, 154, 159, 170.
Fluxes for soldering, 198.
Furnace, Copper, 81.
Gate, 37, 45.
Gebel Rusas, 31, 32.
Gold, 6, 7, 10, 11, 18, 21, 24, 25, 27.
Beating of, 62.
from Asia, 25.
in bronze, 82.
Gold inlay for eyes, 58.
ring, 152, 153.
Goldsmith's work, 6.
Gowland, Professor, 26, 29, 35, 89,
90, 108, 111.
Grabham, Mr., 106.
Grseco-Roman art, 19.
— Period, 18, 21.
Grains, Crystal, 123.
Growth of, 138, 156.
Size of, 129.
Granite, 7, 87, 88, 104, 109.
Graver, 106, 166, 174.
Greece, Iron in, 101.
Greeks, 16, 17, 18, 20.
Grinding of metals, 71.
Growth of grains, 138, 156.
Guns, Rusting of, 99.
Hammer hardening, 78.
Hammering, Effect of, 133.
Hammers, Stone, 117.
— — by hammering, 78, 105.
• of bronze, 35, 78.
of copper, 35, 78.
Hard stone carvings, 103.
Hieroglyphics, 92, 93.
Hinge, 102, 121, 171.
History, Outline of Egyptian, 1.
Homogeneity in alloys, 128.
Horus, 42, 48, 53.
Hot working of metals, 66, 150, 155.
Hume, Dr. W. F., 85.
Imitations of antiquities, 179.
Intermediate Periods, 24.
Inlaying, 73, 106.
Iron, 9, 22, 24.
in copper, 80.
in tombs, 101, 109.
— ores, 28, 85.
Reduction of, 106, 108.
Religious objections to, 101.
rust, 97, 99.
Scarcity of, in Egypt, 106, lOP.
■ strikers, 98.
struts, 98, 106.
Use of, 60.
in Syria, 106.
Isis, 42, 202.
Japan, Iron in, 108.
Jar, Bronze, 159, 170.
Jasus Valley, Lead in, 32.
Joints, Metal, 62.
Lake of, 83.
King, Mr. C. W., 194.
Knives, 119, 120.
Copper, 34, 150.
Ladle, Bronze, 64, 158.
Lake of Karnak, 83.
Lance tips, 60.
Later Intermediate Period, 24.
Lead, 18, 24, 32.
in bronze, 30, 76.
■ workings, 32.
Limestone, 104, 109.
Lion-headed god, 204, 207.
Louvre Museum, 48, 53, 57, 77.
Macedonian rule, 20.
Manganese ores, 28.
in Sinai, 32.
Maspero, Sir Gaston, 21, 79.
Mechanical cleaning, 184.
Mediaeval prescriptions, 84.
Metal beating, 62.
Loss of, 82.
of bronze, 130.
Metals, Colours used for, 103.
Sources of, 24.
Microstructure of axe-head, 151.
of bronze ladle, 158.
of bronze pot, 152, 159.
of copper dagger, 147, 148, 165.
• of copper knife, 151.
of copper razor, 150.
of copper rivet, 156.
of copper strip, 149, 155.
of cutting edge, 1 52.
of gold ring, 153.
of silver bead, 156.
of silver- copper statuette, 158.
of twisted brass, 155.
Middle Kingdom, 24.
Mines, 9, 10, 24.
Mirror, Bronze, 71, 176,
Model of carpenter's shop, 114.
Modern bronze. Hardening of, 79.
Mortise joint, 52.
Mould, Bronze, 55.
for arrow tips, 56.
Mould, Open, 54.
Moulding material, 43, 46.
Mummy eye, 187.
Museum, Athens, 58.
British, 57, 58, 74, 77, 99, 100.
■ -Cairo, 12, 14, 15, 20, 31, 36,
55, 81, 109.
• • Florence, 103.
Louvre, 53, 57, 77.
Nail, Copper, 60, 168.
Nile delta, 99.
Old Kingdom, 24.
Open moulds, 54.
Osiris, 58, 59, 157, 158, 166.
Oxides of metals, Use of, 84.
Patina, 76, 82.
Patinas, Artificial, 194.
Pedestal, Mould for, 55.
Persians, 16, 17.
Petrie, Prof. Flinders, 38, 40, 77,
90, 92, 112.
Piupi, Statue of, 7, 8, 36, 37, 41, 104.
of Paris, 44.
Plumb line, 120.
Plutarch, 82, 191.
of metal, 71.
Pot, Bronze, 173.
Priests of Amon, 12.
Ptolemaic Period, 17, 24.
Pyramids, 90, 111.
Raising of metal, 18, 62, 72, 136.
Rameses II., 11, 12.
IV., 12, 13, 47, 52.
Rasps, 15. I
Rathgen, Dr. F., 183.
Razor, Copper, 61, 150.
Recrystallisation, 136, 155.
Reduction of iron, 106, 108.
Refining gold, 26,
Relief polishing, 144.
Religious objection to iron, 109.
Repair of pot, 161.
Repairing, 74, 197.
Repairs, Methods of, 75.
Repousse work, 72,
Rivet, Copper, 156.
Riveting of copper, 36.
Rivets, 120, 171.
Roman occupation, 18.
— Period, 17, 24.
Running- on process, 63, 75.
Rusting of iron, 110.
Rate of, 99.
Saitic Period, 16, 17.
Sarcophagus, 66, 67,
Saw, Copper, 115,
Scarcity of iron in Egypt, 106.
Scrap metal, Use of, 162.
Secondary grains, 136, 138.
Silver, 7, 11, 18,21,26.
• in gold, 25.
inlay for eyes, 58.
— Microstructure of, 123, 124.
Silver-copper alloy, 124, 132.
Sinai, 9, 28, 30, 32, 81, 85.
Slip'- bands, 134.
Smelting furnace, 81.
Snake croAvia, 44.
Soldering, 62, 69, 74, 198.
Solid solutions, 125, 130.
Sothic cycle, 23.
Stand, Collapsible, 72, 73.
Statue in diorite, 87, 88.
Statues, 76, 87.
Steel, 111, 112.
■ Age, Termination of, 4.
• Chisel marks on, 109, 110.
• ■ Cutting of, 94.
hammers, 66, 117.
• quarries, 7.
• statues, 87, 88.
Struts for castings, 39, 74.
Sudan, Reduction of iron in, 107.
Syria, 11,21,26, 100, 106.
-^ Invasion of, 9.
Theban Period, 9.
Thoth, Bronze, 50.
Thutmose III., 10.
Tin, 7, 28.
finger ring, 29.
Wear of, 117,
Turquoise, 7, 28.
Vase, Bronze, 49, 50, 64, 69.
Vases, Roman, 158.
Wadi Abu Jerida, 85.
Walters, Mr. H. B., 100, 101.
Washing of gold, 25.
Waste wax process, 37, 42.
Wear of tools, 117.
Weighing scales, 120.
Welding, 62, 69, 121.
of copper, 36, 160.
Wire drawing, 70.
" Work," 66, 170.
Wrought iron chisels. 111.
Zinc, 18, 126.
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Ancient Egyptian metallurgy, by
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